Conformational dynamics of androgen receptors bound to agonists and antagonists
The androgen receptor (AR) is critical in the progression of prostate cancer (PCa). Small molecule antagonists that bind to the ligand binding domain (LBD) of the AR have been successful in treating PCa. However, the structural basis by which the AR antagonists manifest their therapeutic efficacy remains unclear, due to the lack of detailed structural information of the AR bound to the antagonists. We have performed accelerated molecular dynamics (aMD) simulations of LBDs bound to a set of ligands including a natural substrate (dihydrotestosterone), an agonist (RU59063) and three antagonists (bicalutamide, enzalutamide and apalutamide) as well as in the absence of ligand (apo). We show that the binding of AR antagonists at the substrate binding pocket alter the dynamic fluctuations of H12, thereby disrupting the structural integrity of the agonistic conformation of AR. Two antagonists, enzalutamide and apalutamide, induce considerable structural changes to the agonist conformation of LBD, when bound close to H12 of AR LBD. When the antagonists bind to the pocket with different orientations having close contact with H11, no significant conformational changes were observed, suggesting the AR remains in the functionally activated (agonistic) state. The simulations on a drug resistance mutant F876L bound to enzalutamide demonstrated that the mutation stabilizes the agonistic conformation of AR LBD, which compromises the efficacy of the antagonists. Principal component analysis (PCA) of the structural fluctuations shows that the binding of enzalutamide and apalutamide induce conformational fluctuations in the AR, which are markedly different from those caused by the agonist as well as another antagonist, bicalutamide. These fluctuations could only be observed with the use of aMD.