Subtype selectivity of phosphodiesterase 4 (PDE4) has been proposed to be the most salient feature for the development of drugs for asthma and inflammation. The present review provides an account of various strategies to overcome the side effects of the PDE4 inhibitors. Subtype selectivity and recent developments of molecular modeling approaches towards PDE4 were addressed using QSAR and docking, followed by a detailed structural analysis of more than three dozen available X-ray structures of PDE4B and PDE4D. Usually, the lack of a 3-dimensional structure of a target protein is a bottleneck for rational drug design approaches. However, in this case the availability of 39 X-ray structures along with co-crystals has not improved the therapeutic ratio of drugs through rational drug design approaches. The investigation of structures led to find significant variations in the M-loop region, which is the integral part of the active site of PDE4B and PDE4D. These differences can be accounted for by varying conformation of the Pro430 residue and a Thr436/Asn362 mutation in the M-loop that causes variations in adjacent residue properties and also the pattern of hydrogen- bonding interactions. The impact of the M-loop region on inhibitor binding has been further scrutinized by MOLCAD surfaces and hydrophobicity. These have shown that PDE4B is more hydrophobic in nature than PDE4D in the M-loop region. A review of the above aspects given the emphasis on a new PDE4 inhibitor which can access both metal and solvent pockets may possibly lead to ligands with enhanced potency. The lining of the Q2 pocket that involves the M-loop region may be considered for the design of potent subtype-selective inhibitors.
Keywords: PDE4, asthma, subtype selectivity, rational drug design, molecular modeling, QSAR, docking, QM
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