Computer design of bioactive molecules: A method for receptor-based de novo ligand design
The design of molecules to bind specifically to protein receptors has long been a goal of computer-assisted molecular design. Given detailed structural knowledge of the target receptor, it should be possible to construct a model of a potential ligand, by algorithmic connection of small molecular fragments, that will exhibit the desired structural and electrostatic complementarity with the receptor. However, progress in this area of receptorbased, de novo ligand design has been hampered by the complexity of the construction process, in which potentially huge numbers of structures must be considered. By limiting the scope of the structure-space examined to one particular class of ligands–namely, peptides and peptide-like compounds–the problem complexity has been reduced to the point that successful, de novo design is now possible. The methodology presented employs a large template set of amino acid conformations which are iteratively pieced together in a model of the target receptor. Each stage of ligand growth is evaluated according to a molecular mechanicsbased energy function, which considers van der Waals and coulombic interactions, internal strain energy of the lengtheining ligand, and desolvation of both ligand and receptor. The search space is managed by use of a data tree which is kept under control by pruning according to the energy evaluation. Ligands grown by this procedure are subjected to follow-up evaluation in which an approximate binding enthalpy is determined. This methodology has proven useful as a precise model-builder and has also shown the ability to design bioactive ligands.