Publication: Conformational Analysis of Free and Bound Retinoic Acid

Abstract: The conformational profiles of unbound all-trans and 9-cis retinoic acid (RA) have been determined using classical and quantum mechanical calculations. Sixty-six all-trans-RA (ATRA) and 48 9-cis-RA energy minimum conformers were identified via HF/6-31G* geometry optimizations in vacuo. Their relative conformational energies were estimated utilizing the M06, M06-2x, and MP2 methods combined with the 6-311+G(d,p), aug-cc-pVDZ, and aug-cc-pVTZ basis sets, as well as complete basis set MP2 extrapolations using the latter two basis sets. Single-point energy calculations performed with the M06-2x density functional were found to yield similar results to MP2/CBS for the low-energy retinoic acid conformations. Not unexpectedly, the conformational propensities of retinoic acid were governed by the orientation and arrangement of the torsion angles associated with the polyene tail. We also used previously reported QM/MM X-ray refinement results on four ATRA-protein crystal structures plus one newly refined 9-cis-RA complex (PDB ID: 1XDK) in order to investigate the conformational preferences of bound retinoic acid. In the rerefined RA conformers, the conjugated double bonds are nearly coplanar, which is consistent with the global minimum identified by the Omega/QM method rather than the corresponding crystallographically determined conformations given in the PDB. Consequently, a 91.3% average reduction of the local strain energy in the gas phase, as well as 92.1% in PCM solvent, was observed using the QM/MM refined structures versus the PDB deposited RA conformations. These results thus demonstrate that our QM/MM X-ray refinement approach can significantly enhance the quality of X-ray crystal structures refined by conventional refinement protocols, thereby providing reliable drug-target structural information for use in structure-based drug discovery applications.

Authors: Zheng Fu , Xue Li , and Kenneth M. Merz , Jr.

Reference: J. Chem. Theory Comput., 2012, 8 (4), pp 1436–1448 (see link for full paper).