Kinase inhibitors and the case for CH...O hydrogen bonds in protein-ligand binding

Proteins. 2002 Dec 1;49(4):567-76. doi: 10.1002/prot.10259.


Although the hydrogen bond is known to be an important mediator of intermolecular interactions, there has yet to be an analysis of the role of CH...O hydrogen bonds in protein-ligand complexes. In this work, we present evidence for such nonstandard hydrogen bonds from a survey of aromatic ligands in 184 kinase crystal structures and 358 high-resolution structures from the Protein Data Bank. CH groups adjacent to the positively charged nitrogen of nicotinamide exhibit geometric preferences strongly suggestive of hydrogen bonding interactions, as do heterocyclic CH groups in kinase ligands, while other aromatic CH groups do not exhibit these characteristics. Ab initio calculations reveal a considerable range of CH...O hydrogen bonding potentials among different aromatic ring systems, with nicotinamide and heterocycles preferred in kinase inhibitors showing particularly favorable interactions. These results provide compelling evidence for the existence of CH...O hydrogen bonds in protein-ligand interactions, as well as information on the relative strength of various aromatic CH donors. Such knowledge will be of considerable value in protein modeling, ligand design, and structure-activity analysis.

MeSH terms

  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • Databases, Protein
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / chemistry*
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / metabolism*
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Hydrogen Bonding
  • Ligands
  • Models, Chemical
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Structure
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Conformation
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • Protein Kinases / chemistry*
  • Protein Kinases / metabolism*
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Thermodynamics


  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Ligands
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • Protein Kinases