Protein kinase C (PKC) is down-stream to most of the G-protein coupled receptor or tyrosine kinase receptors
mediated signaling events from the cell surface. PKC C1 domain has a hydrophobic region with a polar groove to
facilitate 1,2-diacyl-glycerol (DAG) binding or other agonist molecule for PKC activation. Post activation, a partial or
complete blocking of hydrophilic groove makes the DAG binding site completely hydrophobic and facilitates easier
penetration of the PKC into the membrane. Phorbol ester, a strong PKC agonist, uses this mechanism to induce tumor
formation. A total of 300 heterocyclic compounds with 70% similarity to phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA) were
selected, and virtual docking was performed with PKC-α as target. An initial screening indicated that most of the
molecules fit well into the C1 domain and had better binding energy than PMA. Further analysis in a PMA competition
experiment identified five molecules, Zc 67913417, Zc 68601770, Zc 25726447, Zc 35376386 and Zc 49785214 as potent
PKC agonists. In addition, as these compounds showed better binding than PMA, more interaction with PKC residues
(hydrogen bonding and hydrophobic), and the top five hit molecules was potent enough to abolish carcinogenic effects of
PMA. Searching the top heterocyclic compounds into the drug database gave a number of approved drugs. Testing two
candidate drugs, nandrolone decanoate and budesonide, reduced cellular viability of HT1080 in a dose-dependent manner
with an IC50 values of 96.8 nM and 200nM respectively. An in silico toxicity analysis indicated that top hit molecules are
non-toxic, non-mutagenic in cellular and bacterial system, and have no tumorigenic potentials in a single cell or animal
model. Hence, a virtual screening, agonist competition assay, and in silico toxicity assessment allowed us to identify five
new PKC agonist molecules for future drug discovery against cancer.
Agonist, Cancer, Docking, Heterocyclic, Protein kinase C, PMA, Toxicity.
Malaria Research Group, Department of Biotechnology, Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati, Assam-781039, India.