Computer-aided discovery, validation, and mechanistic characterization of novel neolignan activators of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma

Mol Pharmacol. 2010 Apr;77(4):559-66. doi: 10.1124/mol.109.062141. Epub 2010 Jan 11.


Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPAR gamma) agonists are used for the treatment of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. However, the currently used PPAR gamma agonists display serious side effects, which has led to a great interest in the discovery of novel ligands with favorable properties. The aim of our study was to identify new PPARgamma agonists by a PPAR gamma pharmacophore-based virtual screening of 3D natural product libraries. This in silico approach led to the identification of several neolignans predicted to bind the receptor ligand binding domain (LBD). To confirm this prediction, the neolignans dieugenol, tetrahydrodieugenol, and magnolol were isolated from the respective natural source or synthesized and subsequently tested for PPAR gamma receptor binding. The neolignans bound to the PPAR gamma LBD with EC(50) values in the nanomolar range, exhibiting a binding pattern highly similar to the clinically used agonist pioglitazone. In intact cells, dieugenol and tetrahydrodieugenol selectively activated human PPAR gamma-mediated, but not human PPAR alpha- or -beta/delta-mediated luciferase reporter expression, with a pattern suggesting partial PPAR gamma agonism. The coactivator recruitment study also demonstrated partial agonism of the tested neolignans. Dieugenol, tetrahydrodieugenol, and magnolol but not the structurally related eugenol induced 3T3-L1 preadipocyte differentiation, confirming effectiveness in a cell model with endogenous PPAR gamma expression. In conclusion, we identified neolignans as novel ligands for PPAR gamma, which exhibited interesting activation profiles, recommending them as potential pharmaceutical leads or dietary supplements.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 3T3-L1 Cells
  • Adipocytes / cytology
  • Animals
  • Binding, Competitive
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects
  • Drug Discovery*
  • Humans
  • Luciferases / genetics
  • Mice
  • PPAR gamma / agonists*
  • Software
  • Transcriptional Activation


  • PPAR gamma
  • Luciferases