Computational methods for predicting ligand affinity where no protein structure is known generally take the form of regression analysis based on molecular features that have only a tangential relationship to a protein/ligand binding event. Such methods have utility in retrospective rationalization of activity patterns of substituents on a common scaffold, but are limited when either multiple scaffolds are present or when ligand alignment varies significantly based on structural changes. In addition, such methods generally assume independence and additivity of effect from scaffold substituents. Collectively, these non-physical modeling assumptions sharply limit the utility of widely used QSAR approaches for prospective prediction of ligand activity. The recently introduced Surflex-QMOD approach, by virtue of constructing physical models of binding sites, comes closer to a modeling approach that is congruent with protein ligand binding events. A set of congeneric CDK2 inhibitors showed that induced binding pockets can be quite congruent with the enzyme’s active site but that model predictivity within a chemical series does not necessarily depend on congruence. Muscarinic antagonists were used to show that the QMOD approach is capable of making accurate predictions in cases where highly non-additive structure activity effects exist. The QMOD method offers a means to go beyond non-causative correlations in QSAR analysis.
October 1, 2010