Motivation: Identification of ligand binding pockets on proteins is crucial for the characterization of protein functions. It provides valuable information for protein-ligand docking and rational engineering of small molecules that regulate protein functions. A major number of current prediction algorithms of ligand binding pockets are based on cubic grid representation of proteins and, thus, the results are often protein orientation dependent.
Results: We present the MSPocket program for detecting pockets on the solvent excluded surface of proteins. The core algorithm of the MSPocket approach does not use any cubic grid system to represent proteins and is therefore independent of protein orientations. We demonstrate that MSPocket is able to achieve an accuracy of 75% in predicting ligand binding pockets on a test dataset used for evaluating several existing methods. The accuracy is 92% if the top three predictions are considered. Comparison to one of the recently published best performing methods shows that MSPocket reaches similar performance with the additional feature of being protein orientation independent. Interestingly, some of the predictions are different, meaning that the two methods can be considered complementary and combined to achieve better prediction accuracy. MSPocket also provides a graphical user interface for interactive investigation of the predicted ligand binding pockets. In addition, we show that overlap criterion is a better strategy for the evaluation of predicted ligand binding pockets than the single point distance criterion.
Availability: The MSPocket source code can be downloaded from http://appserver.biotec.tu-dresden.de/MSPocket/. MSPocket is also available as a PyMOL plugin with a graphical user interface.