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J Med Chem. 1999 Mar 11;42(5):791-804.

A general and fast scoring function for protein-ligand interactions: a simplified potential approach.

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  • 1Pharmaceutical Products Division, Abbott Laboratories, Abbott Park, Illinois 60064-6100, USA.


A fast, simplified potential-based approach is presented that estimates the protein-ligand binding affinity based on the given 3D structure of a protein-ligand complex. This general, knowledge-based approach exploits structural information of known protein-ligand complexes extracted from the Brookhaven Protein Data Bank and converts it into distance-dependent Helmholtz free interaction energies of protein-ligand atom pairs (potentials of mean force, PMF). The definition of an appropriate reference state and the introduction of a correction term accounting for the volume taken by the ligand were found to be crucial for deriving the relevant interaction potentials that treat solvation and entropic contributions implicitly. A significant correlation between experimental binding affinities and computed score was found for sets of diverse protein-ligand complexes and for sets of different ligands bound to the same target. For 77 protein-ligand complexes taken from the Brookhaven Protein Data Bank, the calculated score showed a standard deviation from observed binding affinities of 1.8 log Ki units and an R2 value of 0.61. The best results were obtained for the subset of 16 serine protease complexes with a standard deviation of 1.0 log Ki unit and an R2 value of 0.86. A set of 33 inhibitors modeled into a crystal structure of HIV-1 protease yielded a standard deviation of 0.8 log Ki units from measured inhibition constants and an R2 value of 0.74. In contrast to empirical scoring functions that show similar or sometimes better correlation with observed binding affinities, our method does not involve deriving specific parameters that fit the observed binding affinities of protein-ligand complexes of a given training set. We compared the performance of the PMF score, Böhm's score (LUDI), and the SMOG score for eight different test sets of protein-ligand complexes. It was found that for the majority of test sets the PMF score performs best. The strength of the new approach presented here lies in its generality as no knowledge about measured binding affinities is needed to derive atomic interaction potentials. The use of the new scoring function in docking studies is outlined.

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