Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Toward a solution to nerve agent exposure: Chemist uses supercomputers to test reagents for new treatments

Date:
April 5, 2011
Source:
Ohio Supercomputer Center
Summary:
A chemist is harnessing the power of supercomputing systems to help develop a new drug that will regenerate a critical enzyme in the human body that "ages" after a person is exposed to deadly organophosphorus nerve agents.

Preliminary simulations conducted by Ohio State Professor Christopher Hadad identify catalytic amino acid residues and other critical binding residues in the active site of AChE.
Credit: Hadad/OSU

Scientists are working to develop a new drug that will regenerate a critical enzyme in the human body that "ages" after a person is exposed to deadly chemical warfare agents.

Christopher Hadad, Ph.D., professor of chemistry at The Ohio State University (OSU), is leveraging Ohio Supercomputer Center (OSC) resources to help develop a more effective antidote to lethal chemicals called organophosphorus (OP) nerve agents.

"This project is a combination of synthetic and computational organic chemistry conducted through OSC at Ohio State, and biochemical studies conducted by colleagues at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland," said Hadad.

OP nerve agents inhibit the ability of an enzyme called acetylcholinesterase (AChE) to turn off the messages being delivered by acetylcholine (ACh), a neurotransmitter, to activate various muscles, glands and organs throughout the body. After exposure to OP agents, AChE undergoes a series of reactions, culminating in an "aging" process that inactivates AChE from performing its critical biological function. Without the application of an effective antidote, neurosynaptic communication continues unabated, resulting in uncontrolled secretions from the mouth, eyes and nose, as well as severe muscle spasms, which, if untreated, result in death.

Conventional antidotes to OP nerve agents block the activity of the nerve agent by introducing oxime compounds, which have been the focus of a number of studies. These compounds attach to the phosphorus atom of the nerve agent, after the OP is bound to AChE, and then split it away from the AChE enzyme, allowing the AChE to engage with receptors and finally relax the tissues.

However, in some cases, the combined nerve agent/AChE molecule undergo a process called aging, in which groups of single-bonded carbon and hydrogen atoms called alkyl groups are removed from the molecule and a phosphonate residue is left behind in the AChE active site. Relatively unstudied in nerve agents, this process, called dealkylation, makes the nerve agent/AChE molecule unreceptive to oximes -- an unfortunate situation, considering that certain nerve agents (e.g., soman) can undergo aging within minutes of exposure to AChE.

Hadad's study is focused on the identification of compounds that would return an appropriate alkyl group to the aged nerve agent/AChE molecule, thus allowing treatment with oximes to provide for complete recovery. The project is investigating common OP nerve agents Tabun, VX, VR, Sarin, Soman, Cyclosarin and Paraoxon, all of which take on a similar molecular structure upon aging.

"Computational studies of the interaction of the alkylating compounds with AChE were used to provide insight for the design of selective reagents," Hadad explained. "Ligand-receptor docking, followed by molecular dynamics simulations of the interactions of alkylating compounds with aged OP-AChE, was carried out in conjunction with experimental studies to investigate the binding of alkylating compounds to AChE. These results were then used to suggest interactions that aided in the orientation of alkylating compounds for maximal efficacy."

Throughout the project, Hadad employed computational studies to guide the progress of each objective, as well as to rationalize the observed experimental results.

"Dr. Hadad's work on this project has made use of a range of the tools of electronic structure theory, molecular docking, molecular dynamics and hybrid quantum mechanical/molecular mechanical methods," said Ashok Krishnamurthy, interim co-executive director of OSC. "It was by design that OSC's flagship system, the Glenn IBM 1350 Opteron cluster, was developed to meet the needs of the bioscience research investigators, such as Dr. Hadad."

Hadad's investigations of nerve agent antidotes are funded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (W81XWH-10-2-0044) and supported by the award of an OSC Discovery Account.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Ohio Supercomputer Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Ohio Supercomputer Center. "Toward a solution to nerve agent exposure: Chemist uses supercomputers to test reagents for new treatments." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 April 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110405122338.htm>.
Ohio Supercomputer Center. (2011, April 5). Toward a solution to nerve agent exposure: Chemist uses supercomputers to test reagents for new treatments. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110405122338.htm
Ohio Supercomputer Center. "Toward a solution to nerve agent exposure: Chemist uses supercomputers to test reagents for new treatments." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110405122338.htm (accessed April 21, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Monday, April 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Breakfast Foods Are Getting Pricier

Breakfast Foods Are Getting Pricier

AP (Apr. 21, 2014) Breakfast is now being served with a side of sticker shock. The cost of morning staples like bacon, coffee and orange juice is on the rise because of global supply problems. (April 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Nine-Month-Old Baby Can't Open His Mouth

Nine-Month-Old Baby Can't Open His Mouth

Newsy (Apr. 19, 2014) Nine-month-old Wyatt Scott was born with a rare disorder called congenital trismus, which prevents him from opening his mouth. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Holy Grail' Of Weight Loss? New Find Could Be It

'Holy Grail' Of Weight Loss? New Find Could Be It

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) In a potential breakthrough for future obesity treatments, scientists have used MRI scans to pinpoint brown fat in a living adult for the first time. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Little Progress Made In Fighting Food Poisoning, CDC Says

Little Progress Made In Fighting Food Poisoning, CDC Says

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) A new report shows rates of two foodborne infections increased in the U.S. in recent years, while salmonella actually dropped 9 percent. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins