Flexible docking under pharmacophore type constraints

J Comput Aided Mol Des. 2002 Feb;16(2):129-49. doi: 10.1023/a:1016399411208.


FLEXX-PHARM, an extended version of the flexible docking tool FLEXX, allows the incorporation of information about important characteristics of protein-ligand binding modes into a docking calculation. This information is introduced as a simple set of constraints derived from receptor-based type pharmacophore features. The constraints are determined by selected FLEXX interactions and inclusion volumes in the receptor active site. They guide the docking process to produce a set of docking solutions with particular properties. By applying a series of look-ahead checks during the flexible construction of ligand fragments within the active site, FLEXX-PHARM determines which partially built docking solutions can potentially obey the constraints. Solutions that will not obey the constraints are deleted as early as possible, often decreasing the calculation time and enabling new docking solutions to emerge. FLEXX-PHARM was evaluated on various individual protein-ligand complexes where the top docking solutions generated by FLEXX had high root mean square deviations (RMSD) from the experimentally observed binding modes. FLEXX-PHARM showed an improvement in the RMSD of the top solutions in most cases, along with a reduction in run time. We also tested FLEXX-PHARM as a database screening tool on a small dataset of molecules for three target proteins. In two cases, FLEXX-PHARM missed one or two of the active molecules due to the constraints selected. However, in general FLEXX-PHARM maintained or improved the enrichment shown with FLEXX, while completing the screen in considerably less run time.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Binding Sites
  • Carbonic Anhydrases / chemistry
  • Computer Simulation*
  • Drug Design
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical
  • Ligands
  • Models, Molecular*
  • Protein Binding
  • Software
  • Tetrahydrofolate Dehydrogenase / chemistry
  • Thermolysin / chemistry


  • Ligands
  • Tetrahydrofolate Dehydrogenase
  • Thermolysin
  • Carbonic Anhydrases