Swarm Intelligence

, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp 115–134 | Cite as

An ant colony optimization approach to flexible protein–ligand docking



The prediction of the complex structure of a small ligand with a protein, the so-called protein–ligand docking problem, is a central part of the rational drug design process. For this purpose, we introduce the docking algorithm PLANTS (Protein–Ligand ANT System), which is based on ant colony optimization, one of the most successful swarm intelligence techniques. We study the effectiveness of PLANTS for several parameter settings and present a direct comparison of PLANTS’s performance to a state-of-the-art program called GOLD, which is based on a genetic algorithm and frequently used in the pharmaceutical industry for this task. Last but not least, we also show that PLANTS can make effective use of protein flexibility giving example results on cross-docking and virtual screening experiments for protein kinase A.


Ant colony optimization Protein–ligand docking Cross-docking Virtual screening 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Oliver Korb
    • 1
  • Thomas Stützle
    • 2
  • Thomas E. Exner
    • 1
  1. 1.Theoretische Chemische DynamikUniversität KonstanzKonstanzGermany
  2. 2.IRIDIA, CoDEUniversité Libre de BruxellesBrusselsBelgium

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