A new method SQ has been developed to provide fast, automatic, and objective pairwise three-dimensional molecular alignments. SQ uses an atom-based clique-matching step followed by an alignment scoring function that has been parametrized to recognize pharmacologically relevant atomic properties. Molecular alignments from SQ are consistent with known drug-receptor interactions. We demonstrate this with six pairs of receptor-ligand complexes from the Brookhaven Protein Data Bank. The SQ-generated alignment of one isolated ligand onto another is shown to approximate the alignment of the ligands when the receptors are superimposed. SQ appears to be better than its predecessor SEAL (Kearsley and Smith, Tetrahedron Comput. Methodol. 1990, 3, 615-633) in this regard. SQ has been tailored so that, given one molecule as a probe, it can be used to routinely scan large chemical databases for which precomputed conformations have been stored. The SQ score, a measure of 3D similarity of each candidate molecule to the probe, can be used to rank compounds for the purposes of chemical screening. We demonstrate this with three probes (a thrombin inhibitor, an HIV protease inhibitor, and a model for angiotensin II). In each case SQ can preferentially select from the MDDR database other compounds with the same activity as the probe. We further show, using the angiotensin example, how SQ can identify topologically diverse compounds with the same activity.