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Phys Chem Chem Phys. 2010 May 14;12(18):4543-51. doi: 10.1039/b926326h. Epub 2010 Mar 25.

Nonbonding interactions of organic halogens in biological systems: implications for drug discovery and biomolecular design.

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Drug Discovery and Design Center, Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica, Chinese Academy of Science, Shanghai 201203, China.


Halogenation is an important approach in lead optimization for drug development and about half of the molecules used in high-throughput screening are halogenated. However, there is neither a suitable theoretical algorithm for evaluating the interaction between the halogen atoms of a ligand and its target protein nor a detailed understanding of how a halogen atom interacts with electron-rich atoms or groups of the residues in the binding pocket. In this Perspective, we concentrate on nonbonding interactions of halogens from both crystallographic data and theoretical viewpoints. It is found that organic halogen atoms are favorably involved in a wide variety of noncovalent protein-ligand interactions, such as halogen bonds C-X...O and hydrogen bonds C-X...H, that show remarkable differences in terms of the geometrical and energetic features. In biological molecules, heavier halogens prefer to form linear interactions with oxygen atoms and aromatic pi systems as compared to N or S, while the mean intermolecular distances for these types of halogen bonds increase with the radius or polarizability of halogen atoms, viz., Cl < Br < I. Furthermore, F...H interactions in protein-ligand complexes exhibit disparate behavior relative to X...H (X = Cl, Br, I) counterparts. These observed tendencies of the interactions involving halogens are subsequently rationalized by means of ab initio calculations using small model systems. The results presented herein should be of great use in the rational design of halogenated ligands as inhibitors and drugs as well as in biological engineering.

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