Binding Mode and Induced Fit Predictions for Prospective Computational Drug Design

Computer-aided drug design plays an important role in medicinal chemistry to obtain insights into molecular mechanisms and to prioritize design strategies. Although significant improvement has been made in structure based design, it still remains a key challenge to accurately model and predict induced fit mechanisms. Most of the current available techniques either do not provide sufficient protein conformational sampling or are too computationally demanding to fit an industrial setting. The current study presents a systematic and exhaustive investigation of predicting binding modes for a range of systems using PELE (Protein Energy Landscape Exploration), an efficient and fast protein–ligand sampling algorithm. The systems analyzed (cytochrome P, kinase, protease, and nuclear hormone receptor) exhibit different complexities of ligand induced fit mechanisms and protein dynamics. The results are compared with results from classical molecular dynamics simulations and (induced fit) docking. This study shows that ligand induced side chain rearrangements and smaller to medium backbone movements are captured well in PELE. Large secondary structure rearrangements, however, remain challenging for all employed techniques. Relevant binding modes (ligand heavy atom RMSD < 1.0 Å) can be obtained by the PELE method within a few hours of simulation, positioning PELE as a tool applicable for rapid drug design cycles.