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J Mol Biol. 2000 Jan 14;295(2):337-56.

Knowledge-based scoring function to predict protein-ligand interactions.

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  • 1Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, Marbacher Weg 6, Philipps-University of Marburg, D-35032, Germany.


The development and validation of a new knowledge-based scoring function (DrugScore) to describe the binding geometry of ligands in proteins is presented. It discriminates efficiently between well-docked ligand binding modes (root-mean-square deviation <2.0 A with respect to a crystallographically determined reference complex) and those largely deviating from the native structure, e.g. generated by computer docking programs. Structural information is extracted from crystallographically determined protein-ligand complexes using ReLiBase and converted into distance-dependent pair-preferences and solvent-accessible surface (SAS) dependent singlet preferences for protein and ligand atoms. Definition of an appropriate reference state and accounting for inaccuracies inherently present in experimental data is required to achieve good predictive power. The sum of the pair preferences and the singlet preferences is calculated based on the 3D structure of protein-ligand binding modes generated by docking tools. For two test sets of 91 and 68 protein-ligand complexes, taken from the Protein Data Bank (PDB), the calculated score recognizes poses generated by FlexX deviating <2 A from the crystal structure on rank 1 in three quarters of all possible cases. Compared to FlexX, this is a substantial improvement. For ligand geometries generated by DOCK, DrugScore is superior to the "chemical scoring" implemented into this tool, while comparable results are obtained using the "energy scoring" in DOCK. None of the presently known scoring functions achieves comparable power to extract binding modes in agreement with experiment. It is fast to compute, regards implicitly solvation and entropy contributions and produces correctly the geometry of directional interactions. Small deviations in the 3D structure are tolerated and, since only contacts to non-hydrogen atoms are regarded, it is independent from assumptions of protonation states.

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