, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 43-57

Q-fit: A probabilistic method for docking molecular fragments by sampling low energy conformational space

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Abstract

A new method is presented that docks molecular fragments to a rigid protein receptor. It uses a probabilistic procedure based on statistical thermodynamic principles to place ligand atom triplets at the lowest energy sites. The probabilistic method ranks receptor binding modes so that the lowest energy ones are sampled first. This allows constraints to be introduced to limit the depth of the search leading to a computationally efficient method of sampling low energy conformational space. This is combined with energy minimization of the initial fragment placement to arrive at a low energy conformation for the molecular fragment. Two different search methods are tested involving (i) geometric hashing and (ii) pose clustering methods. Ten molecular fragments were docked that have commonly been used to test docking methods. The success rate was 8/10 and 10/10 for generating a close solution ranked first using the two different sampling procedures. In general, all five of the top ranked solutions reproduce the observed binding mode, which increases confidence in the predictions. A set of ten molecular fragments that have previously been identified as problematic were docked. Success was achieved in 3/10 and 4/10 using the two different methods. Again there is a high level of agreement between the two methods and again in the successful cases the top ranked solutions are correct whilst in the case of the failures none are. The geometric hashing and pose clustering methods are fast averaging ∼ 13 and ∼ 11 s per placement respectively using conservative parameters. The results are very encouraging and will facilitate the process of finding novel small molecule lead compounds by virtual screening of chemical databases.