The discovery, complex crystal structure, and recognition mechanism of a novel natural PDE4 inhibitor fromSelaginella pulvinata

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Phosphodiesterase-4 (PDE4) is an important drug target for treatment of inflammation-related diseases. Till now, natural PDE4 inhibitors are rare and their co-crystal structures with PDE4 are hardly available. In the present study, selaginpulvilins K and L (1 and 2), two novel fluorene derivatives, were isolated from a traditional Chinese medicine Selaginella pulvinata and exhibited remarkable inhibition against phosphodiesterase-4D (PDE4D) at IC50 11 nM and 90 nM, respectively. Compound 1 also showed a good selectivity across PDE families with the selective fold ranging from 30 to 909. To understand the recognition mechanism of selaginpulvilins towards PDE4, the crystal structure of PDE4D bound with 1 was successfully determined by the X-ray diffraction method and presented an unusual binding mode in which the stretched skeleton of the inhibitor bound shallowly to the active site but had interactions with multi sub-pockets, such as Q, HC, M, and S, especially strong interaction with the metal region. Assisted with molecular modeling, the structure–activity relationship and the selectivity of selaginpulvilins were also well explored, which would facilitate the future rational inhibitor design or structural optimizations.

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