Do structurally similar molecules have similar biological activity?

J Med Chem. 2002 Sep 12;45(19):4350-8. doi: 10.1021/jm020155c.


To design diverse combinatorial libraries or to select diverse compounds to augment a screening collection, computational chemists frequently reject compounds that are > or =0.85 similar to one already chosen for the combinatorial library or in the screening set. Using Daylight fingerprints, this report shows that for IC(50) values determined as a follow-up to 115 high-throughput screening assays, there is only a 30% chance that a compound that is > or = 0.85 (Tanimoto) similar to an active is itself active. Although this enrichment is greater than that found with random screening and docking to three-dimensional structures, this low fraction of actives within similar compounds occurs not only because of deficiencies in the Daylight fingerprints and Tanimoto similarity calculations but also because similar compounds do not necessarily interact with the target macromolecule in similar ways. The current study emphasizes the statistical or probabilistic nature of library design and that perfect results cannot be expected.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Combinatorial Chemistry Techniques*
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Databases, Factual
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / chemistry
  • Molecular Structure*
  • Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors / chemistry
  • Quantitative Structure-Activity Relationship*


  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors