Discovery of novel antagonists targeting the DNA binding domain of androgen receptor by integrated docking-based virtual screening and bioassays

Jin-ping Pang1,2,3,4, Chao Shen1,2,3,4, Wen-fang Zhou1,2,3,4, Yun-xia Wang1,2,3,4, Lu-hu Shan, Xin Chai1,2,3,4, Ying Shao1,2,3,4, Xue-ping Hu1,2,3,4, Feng Zhu1,2,3,4, Dan-yan Zhu1,2,3,4, Li Xiao, Lei Xu, Xiao-hong Xu, Dan Li1,2,3,4, Ting-jun Hou1,2,3,4
1 angzhou Institute of Innovative Medicine, College of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou 310058, China
2 2Institute of Cancer Research and Basic Medical Sciences of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Cancer Hospital of University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Zhejiang Cancer Hospital, Hangzhou 310022, China
3 3School of Life Science, Huzhou University, Huzhou 313000, China
4 4Institute of Bioinformatics and Medical Engineering, School of Electrical and Information Engineering, Jiangsu University of Technology, Changzhou 213001, China and 5State Key Lab of CAD & CG, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou 310058, China
Correspondence to: Dan Li:, Ting-jun Hou:,
DOI: 10.1038/s41401-021-00632-5
Received: 22 December 2020
Accepted: 24 February 2021
Advance online: 25 March 2021


Androgen receptor (AR), a ligand-activated transcription factor, is a master regulator in the development and progress of prostate cancer (PCa). A major challenge for the clinically used AR antagonists is the rapid emergence of resistance induced by the mutations at AR ligand binding domain (LBD), and therefore the discovery of novel anti-AR therapeutics that can combat mutation- induced resistance is quite demanding. Therein, blocking the interaction between AR and DNA represents an innovative strategy. However, the hits confirmed targeting on it so far are all structurally based on a sole chemical scaffold. In this study, an integrated docking-based virtual screening (VS) strategy based on the crystal structure of the DNA binding domain (DBD) of AR was conducted to search for novel AR antagonists with new scaffolds and 2-(2-butyl-1,3-dioxoisoindoline-5-carboxamido)−4,5- dimethoxybenzoicacid (Cpd39) was identified as a potential hit, which was competent to block the binding of AR DBD to DNA and showed decent potency against AR transcriptional activity. Furthermore, Cpd39 was safe and capable of effectively inhibiting the proliferation of PCa cell lines (i.e., LNCaP, PC3, DU145, and 22RV1) and reducing the expression of the genes regulated by not only the full-length AR but also the splice variant AR-V7. The novel AR DBD-ARE blocker Cpd39 could serve as a starting point for the development of new therapeutics for castration-resistant PCa.
Keywords: androgen receptor; DNA binding domain; antagonist; prostate cancer; virtual screening; molecular docking

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