A series of imidazolium salt derivatives have demonstrated potent antitumor activity in prior research. A comprehensive in silicon method was carried out to identify the putative protein target and detailed structure-activity relationship of the compounds. The Topomer CoMFA and CoMSIA techniques were implemented during the investigation to obtain the relationship between the properties of the substituent group and the contour map of around 77 compounds; the Topomer CoMFA and CoMSIA models were reliable with the statistical data. The protein–protein interaction network was constructed by combining the Pharmmapper platform and STRING database. After generating the sub-network, the phosphatidylinositol-4,5-bisphosphate 3-kinase catalytic subunit α (PIK3CA with protein data bank ID: 3ZIM) was selected as the putative target of imidazolium salt derivatives. A docking study was carried out to correlate interactions of amino acids in protein active pockets surrounded by the ligand with contour maps generated by the structure-activity relationship method. Then the molecular dynamics simulations demonstrated that the imidazolium salt derivatives have potent binding capacity and stability to receptor 3ZIM, and the two ligand-receptor complex was stable in the last 2 ns. Finally, the ligand-based structure-activity relationship and receptor-based docking were combined together to identify the structural requirement of the imidazolium salt derivatives, which will be used to design and synthesize the novel PIK3CA inhibitors.
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