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J Comput Aided Mol Des. 2014 Apr;28(4):463-74. doi: 10.1007/s10822-014-9726-2. Epub 2014 Feb 8.

Blind prediction of SAMPL4 cucurbit[7]uril binding affinities with the mining minima method.

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  • 1Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of California San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, Room# 3224, La Jolla, CA, 92093-0736, USA.


Accurate methods for predicting protein-ligand binding affinities are of central interest to computer-aided drug design for hit identification and lead optimization. Here, we used the mining minima (M2) method to predict cucurbit[7]uril binding affinities from the SAMPL4 blind prediction challenge. We tested two different energy models, an empirical classical force field, CHARMm with VCharge charges, and the Poisson-Boltzmann surface area solvation model; and a semiempirical quantum mechanical (QM) Hamiltonian, PM6-DH+, coupled with the COSMO solvation model and a surface area term for nonpolar solvation free energy. Binding affinities based on the classical force field correlated strongly with the experiments with a correlation coefficient (R(2)) of 0.74. On the other hand, binding affinities based on the QM energy model correlated poorly with experiments (R(2) = 0.24), due largely to two major outliers. As we used extensive conformational search methods, these results point to possible inaccuracies in the PM6-DH+ energy model or the COSMO solvation model. Furthermore, the different binding free energy components, solute energy, solvation free energy, and configurational entropy showed significant deviations between the classical M2 and quantum M2 calculations. Comparison of different classical M2 free energy components to experiments show that the change in the total energy, i.e. the solute energy plus the solvation free energy, is the key driving force for binding, with a reasonable correlation to experiment (R(2) = 0.56); however, accounting for configurational entropy further improves the correlation.

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