Drug Discovery Using Chemical Systems Biology: Identification of the Protein-ligand Binding Network to Explain the Side Effects of CETP Inhibitors

Systematic identification of protein-drug interaction networks is crucial to correlate complex modes of drug action to clinical indications. We introduce a novel computational strategy to identify protein-ligand binding profiles on a genome-wide scale and apply it to elucidating the molecular mechanisms associated with the adverse drug effects of Cholesteryl Ester Transfer Protein (CETP) inhibitors. CETP inhibitors are a new class of preventive therapies for the treatment of cardiovascular disease. However, clinical studies indicated that one CETP inhibitor, Torcetrapib, has deadly off-target effects as a result of hypertension, and hence it has been withdrawn from phase III clinical trials. We have identified a panel of off-targets for Torcetrapib and other CETP inhibitors from the human structural genome and map those targets to biological pathways via the literature. The predicted protein-ligand network is consistent with experimental results from multiple sources and reveals that the side-effect of CETP inhibitors is modulated through the combinatorial control of multiple interconnected pathways. Given that combinatorial control is a common phenomenon observed in many biological processes, our findings suggest that adverse drug effects might be minimized by fine-tuning multiple off-target interactions using single or multiple therapies. This work extends the scope of chemogenomics approaches and exemplifies the role that systems biology has in the future of drug discovery.