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Free Fatty Acid Receptor 4 (FFAR4), a G-protein-coupled receptor, is responsible for triggering intracellular signaling pathways that regulate various physiological processes. FFAR4 agonists are associated with enhancing insulin release and mitigating the atherogenic, obesogenic, pro-carcinogenic, and pro-diabetogenic effects, normally associated with the free fatty acids bound to FFAR4. In this research, molecular structure-based machine-learning techniques were employed to evaluate compounds as potential agonists for FFAR4. Molecular structures were encoded into bit arrays, serving as molecular fingerprints, which were subsequently analyzed using the Bayesian network algorithm to identify patterns for screening the data. The shortlisted hits obtained via machine learning protocols were further validated by Molecular Docking and via ADME and Toxicity predictions. The shortlisted compounds were then subjected to MD Simulations of the membrane-bound FFAR4-ligand complexes for 100 ns each. Molecular analyses, encompassing binding interactions, RMSD, RMSF, RoG, PCA, and FEL, were conducted to scrutinize the protein–ligand complexes at the inter-atomic level. The analyses revealed significant interactions of the shortlisted compounds with the crucial residues of FFAR4 previously documented. FFAR4 as part of the complexes demonstrated consistent RMSDs, ranging from 3.57 to 3.64, with minimal residue fluctuations 5.27 to 6.03 nm, suggesting stable complexes. The gyration values fluctuated between 22.8 to 23.5 nm, indicating structural compactness and orderliness across the studied systems. Additionally, distinct conformational motions were observed in each complex, with energy contours shifting to broader energy basins throughout the simulation, suggesting thermodynamically stable protein–ligand complexes. The two compounds CHEMBL2012662 and CHEMBL64616 are presented as potential FFAR4 agonists, based on these insights and in-depth analyses. Collectively, these findings advance our comprehension of FFAR4’s functions and mechanisms, highlighting these compounds as potential FFAR4 agonists worthy of further exploration as innovative treatments for metabolic and immune-related conditions.


This article was originally published in Scientific Reports, volume 14, in 2024.

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