Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Pharmaceutical Sciences

First Advisor

Glen Kellogg


Computationally driven drug design/discovery efforts generally rely on accurate assessment of the forces that guide the molecular recognition process. HINT (Hydropathic INTeraction) is a natural force field, derived from experimentally determined partition coefficients that quantifies all non-bonded interactions in the biological environment, including hydrogen bonding, electrostatic and hydrophobic interactions, and the energy of desolvation. The overall goal of this work is to apply the HINT-based atomic level description of molecular systems to biologically important proteins, to better understand their biochemistry – a key step in exploiting them for therapeutic purposes. This dissertation discusses the results of three diverse projects: i) structural modeling of human sphingosine kinase 2 (SphK2, a novel anticancer target) and binding mode determination of an isoform selective thiazolidine-2,4-dione (TZD) analog; ii) structural modeling of human cytomegalorvirus (HCMV) alkaline nuclease (AN) UL98 (a novel antiviral target) and subsequent virtual screening of its active site; and iii) explicit treatment of interfacial waters during protein-protein docking process using HINT-based computational tools. SphK2 is a key regulator of the sphingosine-rheostat, and its upregulation /overexpression has been associated with cancer development. We report structural modeling studies of a novel TZD-analog that selectively inhibits SphK2, in a HINT analysis that identifies the key structural features of ligand and protein binding site responsible for isoform selectivity. The second aim was to build a three-dimensional structure of a novel HCMV target – AN UL98, to identify its catalytically important residues. HINT analysis of the interaction of 5’ DNA end at its active site is reported. A parallel aim to perform in silico screening with a site-based pharmacophore model, identified several novel hits with potentially desirable chemical features for interaction with UL98 AN. The majority of current protein-protein docking algorithms fail to account for water molecules involved in bridging interactions between partners, mediating and stabilizing their association. HINT is capable of reproducing the physical and chemical properties of such waters, while accounting for their energetic stabilizing contributions. We have designed a solvated protein-protein docking protocol that explicitly models the Relevant bridging waters, and demonstrate that more accurate results are obtained when water is not ignored.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

May 2013