Recent Trends and Applications in 3D Virtual Screening
Virtual screening (VS) is becoming an increasingly important approach for identifying and selecting biologically active molecules against specific pharmaceutically relevant targets. Compared to conventional high throughput screening techniques, in silico screening is fast and inexpensive, and is increasing in popularity in early-stage drug discovery endeavours. This paper reviews and discusses recent trends and developments in three-dimensional (3D) receptor-based and ligand-based VS methodologies. First, we describe the concept of accessible chemical space and its exploration. We then describe 3D structural ligand-based VS techniques, hybrid approaches, and new approaches to exploit additional knowledge that can now be found in large chemogenomic databases. We also briefly discuss some potential issues relating to pharmacokinetics, toxicity profiling, target identification and validation, inverse docking, scaffold-hopping and drug re-purposing. We propose that the best way to advance the state of the art in 3D VS is to integrate complementary strategies in a single drug discovery pipeline, rather than to focus only on theoretical or computational improvements of individual techniques. Two recent 3D VS case studies concerning the LXR-β receptor and the CCR5/CXCR4 HIV co-receptors are presented as examples which implement some of the complementary methods and strategies that are reviewed here.
Detecting Drug Promiscuity using Gaussian Ensemble Screening
Polypharmacology describes the binding of a ligand to multiple protein targets (a promiscuous ligand) or multiple diverse ligands binding to a given target (a promiscuous target). Pharmaceutical companies are discovering increasing numbers of both promiscuous drugs and drug targets. Hence, polypharmacology is now recognized as an important aspect of drug design. Here, we describe a new and fast way to predict polypharmacological relationships between drug classes quantitatively, which we call Gaussian Ensemble Screening (GES). This approach represents a cluster of molecules with similar spherical harmonic surface shapes as a Gaussian distribution with respect to a selected center molecule. Calculating the Gaussian overlap between pairs of such clusters allows the similarity between drug classes to be calculated analytically without requiring thousands of bootstrap comparisons, as in current promiscuity prediction approaches. We find that such cluster similarity scores also follow a Gaussian distribution. Hence, a cluster similarity score may be transformed into a probability value, or “p-value”, in order to quantify the relationships between drug classes. We present results obtained when using the GES approach to predict relationships between drug classes in a subset of the MDL Drug Data Report (MDDR) database. Our results indicate that GES is a useful way to study polypharmacology relationships, and it could provide a novel way to propose new targets for drug repositioning.
Identifying and characterizing promiscuous targets: Implications for virtual screening
Introduction: Ligand-based shape matching approaches have become established as important and popular virtual screening (VS) techniques. However, despite their relative success, the question of how to best choose the initial query compounds and their conformations remains largely unsolved. This issue gains importance when dealing with promiscuous targets, that is, proteins that bind multiple ligand scaffold families in one or more binding site. Conventional shape matching VS approaches assume that there is only one binding mode for a given protein target. This may be true for some targets, but it is certainly not true in all cases. Several recent studies have shown that some protein targets bind to different ligands in different ways.
Areas covered: The authors discuss the concept of promiscuity in the context of virtual drug screening, and present and analyze several examples of promiscuous targets. The article also reports on the impact of the query conformation on the performance of shape-based VS and the potential to improve VS performance by using consensus shape clustering techniques.
Expert opinion: The notion of polypharmacology is becoming highly relevant in drug discovery. Understanding and exploiting promiscuity present challenges and opportunities for drug discovery endeavors. The examples of promiscuity presented here suggest that promiscuous targets and ligands are much more common than previously assumed, and this should be taken into account in practical VS protocols. Although some progress has been made, there is a need to develop more sophisticated computational techniques and protocols that can identify and characterize promiscuous targets on a genomic scale.
Using Consensus-Shape Clustering to Identify Promiscuous Ligands and Protein targets and to Choose the Right Query for Shape-Based Virtual Screening
Ligand-based shape matching approaches have become established as important and popular virtual screening (VS) techniques. However, despite their relative success, many authors have discussed how best to choose the initial query compounds and which of their conformations should be used. Furthermore, it is increasingly the case that pharmaceutical companies have multiple ligands for a given target and these may bind in different ways to the same pocket. Conversely, a given ligand can sometimes bind to multiple targets, and this is clearly of great importance when considering drug side-effects. We recently introduced the notion of spherical harmonic-based “consensus shapes” to help deal with these questions. Here, we apply a consensus shape clustering approach to the 40 protein-ligand targets in the DUD data set using PARASURF/PARAFIT. Results from clustering show that in some cases the ligands for a given target are split into two subgroups which could suggest they bind to different subsites of the same target. In other cases, our clustering approach sometimes groups together ligands from different targets, and this suggests that those ligands could bind to the same targets. Hence spherical harmonic-based clustering can rapidly give cross-docking information while avoiding the expense of performing all-against-all docking calculations. We also report on the effect of the query conformation on the performance of shape-based screening of the DUD data set and the potential gain in screening performance by using consensus shapes calculated in different ways. We provide details of our analysis of shape-based screening using both PARASURF/PARAFIT and ROCS, and we compare the results obtained with shape-based and conventional docking approaches using MSSH/SHEF and GOLD. The utility of each type of query is analyzed using commonly reported statistics such as enrichment factors (EF) and receiver-operator-characteristic (ROC) plots as well as other early performance metrics.
Predicting drug polypharmacology using a novel surface property similarity-based approach
In recent years, polypharmacology is becoming an increasingly important aspect in drug design. For example, pharmaceutical companies are discovering more and more cases in which multiple drugs bind to a given target (promiscuous targets) and in which a given drug binds to more than one target (promiscuous ligands). Both of these phenomena are clearly of great importance when considering drug side-effects. Given that screening drugs against all the proteins expressed by the human genome is infeasible, several computational techniques for predicting the pharmacological profiles of drugs have been developed, ranging from statistical analyses of chemical fingerprints and biological activities  to 3D docking of ligand structures into protein pockets.
Here we present a novel shape-based approach which uses spherical harmonic (SH) representations[2,3] to compare molecular surfaces and key surface properties very efficiently. This approach compares targets by the SH similarity of their ligands and also of their binding pockets. This allows promiscuous ligands and targets to be identified and characterized.
In this contribution, we present details of our approach applied to a subset of the MDL Drug Data Report (MDDR) database containing 65367 compounds distributed over 249 diverse pharmacological targets for which experimental binding information is known. The similarity of each ligand to each target’s ligand set is quantified and used to predict promiscuity. To our knowledge, this is the largest all-against-all polypharmacological study to have been carried out using shape-based techniques. We compare our promiscuity predictions with computational and experimental results obtained by Keiseret al.. We also analyse the correlation between binding pocket shapes and ligand-based promiscuity predictions using the ligand and pocket shape similarity matrices.