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Workshop: Machine Learning in Structural Biology Workshop

Investigating the conformational landscape of AlphaFold2-predicted protein kinase structures

Carmen Al Masri · Francesco Trozzi · Marcel Patek · Anna Cichonska · Balaguru Ravikumar · Rayees Rahman


Protein kinases are a family of signalling proteins, crucial for maintaining cellular homeostasis. When dysregulated, kinases drive the pathogenesis of several diseases, and are thus one of the largest target categories for drug discovery. Kinase activity is tightly controlled by switching through several active and inactive conformations in their catalytic domain. Kinase inhibitors have been designed to engage kinases in specific conformational states, where each conformation presents a unique physico-chemical environment for therapeutic intervention. Thus, modeling kinases across conformations can enable the design of novel and optimally selective kinase drugs. Due to the recent success of AlphaFold2 in accurately predicting the 3D structure of proteins based on sequence, we investigated the conformational landscape of protein kinases as modeled by AlphaFold2. We observed that AlphaFold2 is able to model several kinase conformations across the kinome, however, certain conformations are only observed in specific kinase families. Furthermore, we show that the per residue predicted local distance difference test can capture information describing conformational dynamics of kinases. Finally, we evaluated the docking performance of AlphaFold2 kinase structures for enriching known ligands. Taken together, we see an opportunity to leverage AlphaFold2 models for structure-based drug discovery against kinases across several pharmacologically relevant conformational states.

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