In Silico Analysis to Identify Molecular Targets for Chemicals of Concern: The Case Study of Flocoumafen, an Anticoagulant Pesticide

Environ Toxicol Chem. 2021 Jul;40(7):2034-2043. doi: 10.1002/etc.5042. Epub 2021 Jun 10.


Rodenticides are pesticides used worldwide, with little information available regarding health consequences in wildlife and humans. The aim of the present study was to use virtual screening to identify potential targets for flocoumafen, a superwarfarin rodenticide. Blind docking of more than 841 human proteins was carried out employing AutoDock Vina. The strength of the ligand interaction with the proteins was quantified based on the binding affinity score (kcal/mol). Results indicate that flocoumafen could be a promiscuous ligand for diversity of cellular protein targets. The best complexes were obtained for prostaglandin F synthase (-14.2 kcal/mol) and serum albumin (-14.0 kcal/mol) followed by glucocorticoid receptor 2, matrix metalloproteinase-9, nuclear receptor ROR-alpha, and activin receptor type-1, all with values equal or better than -13.5 kcal/mol. Docking method validation based on the root-mean-square deviation showed that flocoumafen had good capability to predict corresponding co-crystallized poses; and molecular dynamics simulations suggested the complex with greater binding affinity was thermodynamically stable. Protein-protein interaction networks built with main protein targets revealed that protein kinase B (AKT1), ribosomal protein S6 kinase B1 (RPS6KB1), phosphatidylinositol-4,5-bisphosphate 3-kinase catalytic subunit alpha (PIK3CA), retinoid X receptor alpha (RXRA), and protein phosphatase 2 catalytic subunit alpha (PPP2CA) were major hub proteins, whereas the gene ontology analysis reported that cellular response to endogenous stimulus, protein binding, and the TOR complex were the biological processes, molecular function, and cell component enrichments, respectively. These results should motivate more ecotoxicity testing for flocoumafen and other superwarfarins, as well as precautionary legislation to minimize exposure to these highly toxic chemicals. Environ Toxicol Chem 2021;40:2034-2043. © 2021 SETAC.

Keywords: Endocrine-disrupting chemical; Pesticides; Protein-protein interaction network; Superwarfarine.

MeSH terms

  • 4-Hydroxycoumarins
  • Anticoagulants
  • Humans
  • Ligands
  • Molecular Docking Simulation
  • Molecular Dynamics Simulation
  • Pesticides*
  • Rodenticides*


  • 4-Hydroxycoumarins
  • Anticoagulants
  • Ligands
  • Pesticides
  • Rodenticides
  • flocoumafen