Bioactive natural products present in the diet play an important role in several biological processes, and many have been involved in the alleviation and control of inflammation-related diseases. These actions have been linked to both gene expression modulation of pro-inflammatory enzymes, such as cyclooxygenase 2 (COX-2), and to an action involving a direct inhibitory binding on this protein. In this study, several food-related compounds with known gene regulatory action on inflammation have been examined in silico as COX-2 ligands, utilizing AutoDock Vina, GOLD and Surflex-Dock (SYBYL) as docking protocols. Curcumin and all-trans retinoic acid presented the maximum absolute AutoDock Vina-derived binding affinities (9.3 kcal/mol), but genistein, apigenin, cyanidin, kaempferol, and docosahexaenoic acid, were close to this value. AutoDock Vina affinities and GOLD scores for several known COX-2 inhibitors significatively correlated with reported median inhibitory concentrations (R² = 0.462, P < 0.001 and R² = 0.238, P = 0.029, respectively), supporting the computational reliability of the predictions made by our docking simulations. Moreover, docking analysis insinuate the synergistic action of curcumin on celecoxib-induced inhibition of COX-2 may occur allosterically, as this natural compound docks to a place different from the inhibitor binding site. These results suggest that the anti-inflammatory properties of some food-derived molecules could be the result of their direct binding capabilities to COX-2, and this process can be modeled using protein-ligand docking methodologies.
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