Rationalization and prediction of drug resistant mutations in targets for clinical anti-tubercular drugs

Resistance to therapy limits the effectiveness of drug treatment in many diseases. Drug resistance can be considered as a successful outcome of the bacterial struggle to survive in the hostile environment of a drug-exposed cell. An important mechanism by which bacteria acquire drug resistance is through mutations in the drug target. Drug resistant strains (multi-drug resistant and extensively drug resistant) of Mycobacterium tuberculosis are being identified at alarming rates, increasing the global burden of tuberculosis. An understanding of the nature of mutations in different drug targets and how they achieve resistance is therefore important. An objective of this study is to first decipher sequence as well as structural bases for the observed resistance in known drug resistant mutants and then to predict positions in each target that are more prone to acquiring drug resistant mutations. A curated database containing hundreds of mutations in the 38 drug targets of nine major clinical drugs, associated with resistance is studied here. Mutations have been classified into those that occur in the binding site itself, those that occur in residues interacting with the binding site and those that occur in outer zones. Structural models of the wild type and mutant forms of the target proteins have been analysed to seek explanations for reduction in drug binding. Stability analysis of an entire array of 19 mutations at each of the residues for each target has been computed using structural models. Conservation indices of individual residues, binding sites and whole proteins are computed based on sequence conservation analysis of the target proteins. The analyses lead to insights about which positions in the polypeptide chain have a higher propensity to acquire drug resistant mutations. Thus critical insights can be obtained about the effect of mutations on drug binding, in terms of which amino acid positions and therefore which interactions should not be heavily relied upon, which in turn can be translated into guidelines for modifying the existing drugs as well as for designing new drugs. The methodology can serve as a general framework to study drug resistant mutants in other micro-organisms as well.