Ligand fragment link

Flow chart for structure-based drug design

When we want to plant “seeds” into different regions defined by the previous section, we need a fragments database to choose fragments from. The term “fragment” is used here to describe the building blocks used in the construction process. The rationale of this algorithm lies in the fact that organic structures can be decomposed into basic chemical fragments. Although the diversity of organic structures is infinite, the number of basic fragments is rather limited.

Before the first fragment, i.e. the seed, is put into the binding pocket, and other fragments can be added one by one, it is useful to identify potential problems. First, the possibility for the fragment combinations is huge. A small perturbation of the previous fragment conformation would cause great difference in the following construction process. At the same time, in order to find the lowest binding energy on the Potential energy surface(PES) between planted fragments and receptor pocket, the scoring function calculation would be done for every step of conformation change of the fragments derived from every type of possible fragments combination. Since this requires a large amount of computation, using different tricks may use less computing power and let the program work more efficiently. When a ligand is inserted into the pocket site of a receptor, groups on the ligand that bind tightly with the receptor should have the highest priority in finding their lowest-energy conformation. This allows us to put several seeds into the program at the same time and optimize the conformation of those seeds that form significant interactions with the receptor, and then connect those seeds into a continuous ligand in a manner that make the rest of the ligand have the lowest energy. The pre-placed seeds ensure high binding affinity and their optimal conformation determines the manner in which the ligand will be built, thus determining the overall structure of the final ligand. This strategy efficiently reduces the calculation burden for fragment construction. On the other hand, it reduces the possibility of the combination of fragments, which reduces the number of possible ligands that can be derived from the program. The two strategies above are widely used in most structure-based drug design programs. They are described as “Grow” and “Link”. The two strategies are always combined in order to make the construction result more reliable.

Rational drug discovery
In contrast to traditional methods of drug discovery, which rely on trial-and-error testing of chemical substances on cultured cells or animals, and matching the apparent effects to treatments, rational drug design begins with a hypothesis that modulation of a specific biological target may have therapeutic value. In order for a biomolecule to be selected as a drug target, two essential pieces of information are required. The first is evidence that modulation of the target will have therapeutic value. This knowledge may come from, for example, disease linkage studies that show an association between mutations in the biological target and certain disease states. The second is that the target is "drugable". This means that it is capable of binding to a small molecule and that its activity can be modulated by the small molecule.

Once a suitable target has been identified, the target is normally cloned and expressed. The expressed target is then used to establish a screening assay. In addition, the three-dimensional structure of the target may be determined.

The search for small molecules that bind to the target is begun by screening libraries of potential drug compounds. This may be done by using the screening assay (a "wet screen"). In addition, if the structure of the target is available, a virtual screen may be performed of candidate drugs. Ideally the candidate drug compounds should be "drug-like", that is they should possess properties that are predicted to lead to oral bioavailability, adequate chemical and metabolic stability, and minimal toxic effects. Several methods are available to estimate druglikeness such as Lipinski's Rule of Five and a range of scoring methods such as Lipophilic efficiency. Several methods for predicting drug metabolism have been proposed in the scientific literature, and a recent example is SPORCalc. Due to the complexity of the drug design process, two terms of interest are still serendipity and bounded rationality. Those challenges are caused by the large chemical space describing potential new drugs without side-effects.

Computer-aided drug design
Computer-aided drug design uses computational chemistry to discover, enhance, or study drugs and related biologically active molecules. The most fundamental goal is to predict whether a given molecule will bind to a target and if so how strongly. Molecular mechanics or molecular dynamics are most often used to predict the conformation of the small molecule and to model conformational changes in the biological target that may occur when the small molecule binds to it. Semi-empirical, ab initio quantum chemistry methods, or density functional theory are often used to provide optimized parameters for the molecular mechanics calculations and also provide an estimate of the electronic properties (electrostatic potential, polarizability, etc.) of the drug candidate that will influence binding affinity.

Molecular mechanics methods may also be used to provide semi-quantitative prediction of the binding affinity. Also, knowledge-based scoring function may be used to provide binding affinity estimates. These methods use linear regression, machine learning, neural nets or other statistical techniques to derive predictive binding affinity equations by fitting experimental affinities to computationally derived interaction energies between the small molecule and the target.[15][16]

Ideally the computational method should be able to predict affinity before a compound is synthesized and hence in theory only one compound needs to be synthesized. The reality however is that present computational methods are imperfect and provide at best only qualitatively accurate estimates of affinity. Therefore in practice it still takes several iterations of design, synthesis, and testing before an optimal molecule is discovered. On the other hand, computational methods have accelerated discovery by reducing the number of iterations required and in addition have often provided more novel small molecule structures.

Drug design with the help of computers may be used at any of the following stages of drug discovery:

  1. hit identification using virtual screening(structure- or ligand-based design)
  2. hit-to-lead optimization of affinity and selectivity (structure-based design, QSAR, etc.)
  3. lead optimization optimization of other pharmaceutical properties while maintaining affinity

Flowchart of a Usual Clustering Analysis for Structure-Based Drug Design
In order to overcome the insufficient prediction of binding affinity calculated by recent scoring functions, the protein-ligand interaction and compound 3D structure information are used to analysis. For structure-based drug design, several post-screening analysis focusing on protein-ligand interaction has been developed for improving enrichment and effectively mining potential candidates:

Consensus scoring

  • Selecting candidates by voting of multiple scoring functions
  • May lose the relationship between protein-ligand structural information and scoring criterion

Geometric analysis

  • Comparing protein-ligand interactions by visually inspecting individual structures
  • Becoming intractable when the number of complexes to be analyzed increasing

Cluster analysis

  • Represent and cluster candidates according to protein-ligand 3D information
  • Needs meaningful representation of protein-ligand interactions.

A particular example of rational drug design involves the use of three-dimensional information about biomolecules obtained from such techniques as X-ray crystallography and NMR spectroscopy. Computer-aided drug design in particular becomes much more tractable when there is a high-resolution structure of a target protein bound to a potent ligand. This approach to drug discovery is sometimes referred to as structure-based drug design. The first unequivocal example of the application of structure-based drug design leading to an approved drug is the carbonic anhydrase inhibitor dorzolamide, which was approved in 1995.

Drug design is the creative process of finding new remedies based on the knowledge of a biological target.This review  discusses principle of drug design, various approaches of drug design , lead discovery , lead modification & various types of drug discovery. Bioisosterism is an important lead modification approach that has been shown to be useful to attenuate toxicity  or to modify the activity of a lead, and may have a significant role in the alteration of pharmakinetics of a lead.The process of drug discovery by laboratory experiments is time consuming and very expensive as compared to computational methods.

1) S.Bandyopadhyay,”Active Site Driven Ligand Design: An Evolutionary Approach”, Journal of Bioinformatics and ComputationalBiology Vol. 3, No. 5 ,pp. 1053–1070,2005.
2) M.I.Ecemis¸ J. H. Wikel, C. Bingham, and Eric Bonabeau” A Drug Candidate Design Environment Using EvolutionaryComputation”, Presented at IEEE Trans Evolutionary Computation,Vol.12,pp.591-603, October-2008.
3) Vogale’s Drug discovery and Evaluation
4) Screening methods in Pharmacology by “N S parmar”
5) Foye’s Medicinal chemistry
6) Medicinal chemistry by “S N Pandeya”
8) Mendely Academic research papers.



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