Document Type


Publication Date



Introduction: The Macrophage Migration Inhibitory Factor (MIF), a key pro-inflammatory mediator, is responsible for modulating immune responses. An array of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases has been linked to the dysregulated activity of MIF. The significance in physiological as well as pathophysiological phenomena underscores the potential of MIF as an attractive target with pharmacological relevance. Extensive research in past has uncovered a number of inhibitors, while the ISO-1, or (S, R)-3-(4-hydroxyphenyl)-4,5-dihydro-5-isoxazole acetic acid methyl ester being recognized as a benchmark standard so far. Recent work by Yang and coworkers identified five promising dietary flavonoids, with superior activity compared to the standard ISO-1. Nevertheless, the exact atomic-level inhibitory mechanism is still elusive.

Methods: To improve the dynamic research, and rigorously characterize, and compare molecular signatures of MIF complexes with ISO-1 and flavonoids, principal component analysis (PCA) was linked with molecular dynamics (MD) simulations and binding free energy calculations.

Results: The results suggest that by blocking the tautomerase site these small molecule inhibitors could modify the MIF activity by disrupting the intrinsic dynamics in particular functional areas. The stability matrices revealed the average deviation values ranging from 0.27–0.32 nm while the residue level fluctuations indicated that binding of the selected flavonoids confer enhanced stability relative to the ISO-1. Furthermore, the gyration values extracted from the simulated trajectories were found in the range of 1.80–1.83 nm.

Discussion: Although all the tested flavonoids demonstrated remarkable results, the one obtained for the potent inhibitors, particularly Morin and Amentoflavone exhibited a good correlation with biological activity. The PCA results featured relatively less variance and constricted conformational landscape than others. The stable ensembles and reduced variation in turns might be the possible reasons for their outstanding performance documented previously. The results from the present exploration provide a comprehensive understanding of the molecular complexes formed by flavonoids and MIF, shedding light on their potential roles and impacts. Future studies on MIF inhibitors may benefit from the knowledge gathered from this investigation.


This article was originally published in Frontiers in Molecular Biosciences, volume 11, in 2024.


The authors

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.