Macrocyclic peptides can interfere with challenging biomolecular targets including protein‒protein interactions. Whereas there are various approaches that facilitate the identification of peptide-derived ligands, their evolution into higher affinity binders remains a major hurdle. We report a virtual screen based on molecular docking that allows the affinity maturation of macrocyclic peptides taking non-natural amino acids into consideration. These macrocycles bear large and flexible substituents which usually complicate the use of docking approaches. A virtual library containing more than 1400 structures was screened against the target focusing on docking poses with the core structure resembling a known bioactive conformation. Based on this screen, a macrocyclic peptide (22) involving two non-natural amino acids was evolved showing increased target affinity and biological activity. Predicted binding modes were verified by X-ray crystallography. The presented workflow allows the screening of large macrocyclic peptides with diverse modifications thereby expanding the accessible chemical space and reducing synthetic efforts.
- Journal Article