Increasing protein kinase C (PKC) activity is of potential therapeutic value. Its activation involves an interaction between the C1 domain and diacylglycerol (DAG) at intracellular membrane surfaces; DAG mimetics hold promise as new drugs. We previously developed the isophthalate derivative HMI-1a3, an effective but highly lipophilic (clogP = 6.46) DAG mimetic. Although a less lipophilic pyrimidine analog, PYR-IgP (clogP = 3.30), gave positive results in computational docking, it unexpectedly presented greatly diminished binding to PKC in vitro. Through more rigorous computational molecular modeling, we reveal that, unlike HMI-1a3, PYR-1gP forms an intramolecular hydrogen bond, which both obstructs binding and reorients PYR-1gP in the membrane in a fashion that prevents it from correctly accessing the PKC C1 domain. Our results highlight the great value of molecular dynamics simulations as a key component for the drug design process of ligands targeting weakly membrane-associated proteins, where simulation in the relevant membrane environment is crucial for obtaining biologically applicable results.
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