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J Chem Inf Model. 2012 Sep 24;52(9):2410-21. Epub 2012 Sep 5.

Structural insights into the molecular basis of the ligand promiscuity.

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UMR 7200 CNRS/Université de Strasbourg, MEDALIS Drug Discovery Center, 74 Route du Rhin, 67401 Illkirch, France.


Selectivity is a key factor in drug development. In this paper, we questioned the Protein Data Bank to better understand the reasons for the promiscuity of bioactive compounds. We assembled a data set of >1000 pairs of three-dimensional structures of complexes between a "drug-like" ligand (as its physicochemical properties overlap that of approved drugs) and two distinct "druggable" protein targets (as their binding sites are likely to accommodate "drug-like" ligands). Studying the similarity between the ligand-binding sites in the different targets revealed that the lack of selectivity of a ligand can be due (i) to the fact that Nature has created the same binding pocket in different proteins, which do not necessarily have otherwise sequence or fold similarity, or (ii) to specific characteristics of the ligand itself. In particular, we demonstrated that many ligands can adapt to different protein environments by changing their conformation, by using different chemical moieties to anchor to different targets, or by adopting unusual extreme binding modes (e.g., only apolar contact between the ligand and the protein, even though polar groups are present on the ligand or at the protein surface). Lastly, we provided new elements in support to the recent studies which suggest that the promiscuity of a ligand might be inferred from its molecular complexity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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