Acetylcholinesterase (AChE) catalyzes the hydrolysis of neurotransmitter acetylcholine to acetate and choline in a synaptic cleft. Deficits in cholinergic neurotransmitters are linked closely with the progression of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), which is a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by memory impairment, and a disordered cognitive function. Since the previously approved AChE inhibitors, donepezil (Aricept), galantamine (Reminyl), and rivastigmine (Exelon), have side effects and several studies are being carried out out to develop novel AD drugs, we have applied a three-dimensional quantitative structure−activity relationship (3D QSAR) and structure-based pharmacophore modeling methodologies to identify potential candidate inhibitors against AChE. Herein, 3D QSAR and structure-based pharmacophore models were built from known inhibitors and crystal structures of human AChE in complex with donepezil, galantamine, huperzine A, and huprine W, respectively. The generated models were used as 3D queries to screen new scaffolds from various chemical databases. The hit compounds obtained from the virtual screening were subjected to an assessment of drug-like properties, followed by molecular docking. The final hit compounds were selected based on binding modes and molecular interactions in the active site of the enzyme. Furthermore, molecular dynamics simulations for AChE in complex with the final hits were performed to evaluate that they maintained stable interactions with the active site residues. The binding free energies of the final hits were also calculated using molecular mechanics/Poisson-Boltzmann surface area method. Taken together, we proposed that these hits can be promising candidates for anti-AD drugs.
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