Structural basis for the design of selective phosphodiesterase 4B inhibitors

Cell Signal. 2014 Mar;26(3):657-63. doi: 10.1016/j.cellsig.2013.12.003. Epub 2013 Dec 19.


Phosphodiesterase-4B (PDE4B) regulates the pro-inflammatory Toll Receptor -Tumor Necrosis Factor α (TNFα) pathway in monocytes, macrophages and microglial cells. As such, it is an important, although under-exploited molecular target for anti-inflammatory drugs. This is due in part to the difficulty of developing selective PDE4B inhibitors as the amino acid sequence of the PDE4 active site is identical in all PDE4 subtypes (PDE4A-D). We show that highly selective PDE4B inhibitors can be designed by exploiting sequence differences outside the active site. Specifically, PDE4B selectivity can be achieved by capture of a C-terminal regulatory helix, now termed CR3 (Control Region 3), across the active site in a conformation that closes access by cAMP. PDE4B selectivity is driven by a single amino acid polymorphism in CR3 (Leu674 in PDE4B1 versus Gln594 in PDE4D). The reciprocal mutations in PDE4B and PDE4D cause a 70-80 fold shift in selectivity. Our structural studies show that CR3 is flexible and can adopt multiple orientations and multiple registries in the closed conformation. The new co-crystal structure with bound ligand provides a guide map for the design of PDE4B selective anti-inflammatory drugs.

Keywords: Anti-inflammatory; CR3; Control Region 3; Control helix; Inhibitor; PDE4B; Phosphodiesterase-4B.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence / genetics
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / chemical synthesis*
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / chemistry*
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology
  • Catalytic Domain / drug effects
  • Catalytic Domain / genetics*
  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • Cyclic Nucleotide Phosphodiesterases, Type 4 / drug effects
  • Drug Design
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Microglia / metabolism
  • Models, Molecular
  • Monocytes / metabolism
  • Phosphodiesterase 4 Inhibitors / chemical synthesis*
  • Phosphodiesterase 4 Inhibitors / chemistry*
  • Phosphodiesterase 4 Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / biosynthesis


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Phosphodiesterase 4 Inhibitors
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Cyclic Nucleotide Phosphodiesterases, Type 4