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Journal Articles Journal of Biological Chemistry Year : 2016

Extending Halogen-based Medicinal Chemistry to Proteins


Insulin, a protein critical for metabolic homeostasis, provides a classical model for protein design with application to human health. Recent efforts to improve its pharmaceutical formulation demonstrated that iodination of a conserved tyrosine (TyrB26) enhances key properties of a rapid-acting clinical analog. Moreover, the broad utility of halogens in medicinal chemistry has motivated the use of hybrid quantum- and molecular-mechanical methods to study proteins. Here, we (i) undertook quantitative atomistic simulations of 3-[iodo-TyrB26]insulin to predict its structural features, and (ii) tested these predictions by X-ray crystallography. Using an electrostatic model of the modified aromatic ring based on quantum chemistry, the calculations suggested that the analog, as a dimer and hexamer, exhibits subtle differences in aromatic-aromatic interactions at the dimer interface. Aromatic rings (TyrB16, PheB24, PheB25, 3-I-TyrB26, and their symmetry-related mates) at this interface adjust to enable packing of the hydrophobic iodine atoms within the core of each monomer. Strikingly, these features were observed in the crystal structure of a 3-[iodo-TyrB26]insulin analog (determined as an R6 zinc hexamer). Given that residues B24–B30 detach from the core on receptor binding, the environment of 3-I-TyrB26 in a receptor complex must differ from that in the free hormone. Based on the recent structure of a “micro-receptor” complex, we predict that 3-I-TyrB26 engages the receptor via directional halogen bonding and halogen-directed hydrogen bonding as follows: favorable electrostatic interactions exploiting, respectively, the halogen's electron-deficient σ-hole and electronegative equatorial band. Inspired by quantum chemistry and molecular dynamics, such “halogen engineering” promises to extend principles of medicinal chemistry to proteins.

Dates and versions

hal-02160383 , version 1 (19-06-2019)



Krystel El Hage, Vijay Pandyarajan, Nelson Phillips, Brian Smith, John Menting, et al.. Extending Halogen-based Medicinal Chemistry to Proteins: IODO-INSULIN AS A CASE STUDY. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 2016, 291 (53), pp.27023-27041. ⟨10.1074/jbc.M116.761015⟩. ⟨hal-02160383⟩


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