Neonicotinoid insecticide design: molecular docking, multiple chemometric approaches, and toxicity relationship with Cowpea aphids
Neonicotinoids are the fastest-growing class of insecticides successfully applied in plant protection, human and animal health care. The significant resistance increases led to the urgent need for alternative new neonicotinoids, with improved insecticidal activity. We performed molecular docking to describe a common binding mode of neonicotinoids into the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor, and to select the appropriate conformations to derive models. These were further used in a QSAR study employing both linear and nonlinear approaches to model the inhibitory activity against the Cowpea aphids. Linear modeling was performed by multiple linear regression and partial least squares and nonlinear modeling by artificial neural networks and support vector machine methods. The OECD principles were considered for QSAR models validation. Robust models with predictive power were found for neonicotinoid diverse structures. Based on our QSAR and docking outcomes, five new insecticides were predicted, according to the model applicability domain, the ligand efficiencies, and the binding mode. Therefore, the developed models can be confidently used for the prediction of the insecticidal activity of new chemicals, saving a substantial amount of time and money and, also, contributing to the chemical risk assessment.