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Proteins. 2010 May 15;78(7):1705-23. doi: 10.1002/prot.22687.

Absolute binding free energy calculations: on the accuracy of computational scoring of protein-ligand interactions.

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Department of Chemistry, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California 90089-1062, USA.


Calculating the absolute binding free energies is a challenging task. Reliable estimates of binding free energies should provide a guide for rational drug design. It should also provide us with deeper understanding of the correlation between protein structure and its function. Further applications may include identifying novel molecular scaffolds and optimizing lead compounds in computer-aided drug design. Available options to evaluate the absolute binding free energies range from the rigorous but expensive free energy perturbation to the microscopic linear response approximation (LRA/beta version) and related approaches including the linear interaction energy (LIE) to the more approximated and considerably faster scaled protein dipoles Langevin dipoles (PDLD/S-LRA version) as well as the less rigorous molecular mechanics Poisson-Boltzmann/surface area (MM/PBSA) and generalized born/surface area (MM/GBSA) to the less accurate scoring functions. There is a need for an assessment of the performance of different approaches in terms of computer time and reliability. We present a comparative study of the LRA/beta, the LIE, the PDLD/S-LRA/beta, and the more widely used MM/PBSA and assess their abilities to estimate the absolute binding energies. The LRA and LIE methods perform reasonably well but require specialized parameterization for the nonelectrostatic term. The PDLD/S-LRA/beta performs effectively without the need of reparameterization. Our assessment of the MM/PBSA is less optimistic. This approach appears to provide erroneous estimates of the absolute binding energies because of its incorrect entropies and the problematic treatment of electrostatic energies. Overall, the PDLD/S-LRA/beta appears to offer an appealing option for the final stages of massive screening approaches.

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