A free energy based computational pathway from chemical templates to lead compounds: a case study of COX-2 inhibitors

J Biomol Struct Dyn. 2004 Jun;21(6):791-804. doi: 10.1080/07391102.2004.10506969.


Automation of lead compound design in silico given the structure of the protein target and a definition of its active site vies for the top of the wish list in any drug discovery programme. We present here an enumeration of steps starting from chemical templates and propose a solution at the state of the art, in the form of a system independent comprehensive computational pathway. This methodology is illustrated with cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) as a target. We built candidate molecules including a few Non Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) from chemical templates, passed them through empirical filters to assess drug-like properties, optimized their geometries, derived partial atomic charges via quantum calculations, performed Monte Carlo docking, carried out molecular mechanics and developed free energy estimates with Molecular Mechanics Generalized Born Solvent Accessibility (MMGBSA) methodology for each of the candidate molecules. For the case of aspirin, we also conducted molecular dynamics on the enzyme, the drug and the complex with explicit solvent followed by binding free energy analysis. Collectively, the results obtained from the above studies viz. sorting of drugs from non-drugs, semi-quantitative estimates of binding free energies, amply demonstrate the viability of the strategy proposed for lead selection/design for biomolecular targets.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal* / chemical synthesis
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal* / chemistry
  • Binding Sites
  • Cyclooxygenase 2
  • Cyclooxygenase 2 Inhibitors
  • Cyclooxygenase Inhibitors* / chemical synthesis
  • Cyclooxygenase Inhibitors* / chemistry
  • Drug Design*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Structure
  • Monte Carlo Method
  • Prostaglandin-Endoperoxide Synthases / chemistry*
  • Prostaglandin-Endoperoxide Synthases / metabolism
  • Protein Conformation
  • Thermodynamics*


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Cyclooxygenase 2 Inhibitors
  • Cyclooxygenase Inhibitors
  • Cyclooxygenase 2
  • Prostaglandin-Endoperoxide Synthases