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J Chem Inf Model. 2012 May 25;52(5):1262-74. doi: 10.1021/ci2005934. Epub 2012 Apr 17.

Potential and limitations of ensemble docking.

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Cambridge Crystallographic Data Centre, 12 Union Road, Cambridge CB2 1EZ, UK.


A major problem in structure-based virtual screening applications is the appropriate selection of a single or even multiple protein structures to be used in the virtual screening process. A priori it is unknown which protein structure(s) will perform best in a virtual screening experiment. We investigated the performance of ensemble docking, as a function of ensemble size, for eight targets of pharmaceutical interest. Starting from single protein structure docking results, for each ensemble size up to 500,000 combinations of protein structures were generated, and, for each ensemble, pose prediction and virtual screening results were derived. Comparison of single to multiple protein structure results suggests improvements when looking at the performance of the worst and the average over all single protein structures to the performance of the worst and average over all protein ensembles of size two or greater, respectively. We identified several key factors affecting ensemble docking performance, including the sampling accuracy of the docking algorithm, the choice of the scoring function, and the similarity of database ligands to the cocrystallized ligands of ligand-bound protein structures in an ensemble. Due to these factors, the prospective selection of optimum ensembles is a challenging task, shown by a reassessment of published ensemble selection protocols.

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