On achieving high accuracy and reliability in the calculation of relative protein-ligand binding affinities

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Feb 7;109(6):1937-42. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1114017109. Epub 2012 Jan 23.


We apply a free energy perturbation simulation method, free energy perturbation/replica exchange with solute tempering, to two modifications of protein-ligand complexes that lead to significant conformational changes, the first in the protein and the second in the ligand. The approach is shown to facilitate sampling in these challenging cases where high free energy barriers separate the initial and final conformations and leads to superior convergence of the free energy as demonstrated both by consistency of the results (independence from the starting conformation) and agreement with experimental binding affinity data. The second case, consisting of two neutral thrombin ligands that are taken from a recent medicinal chemistry program for this interesting pharmaceutical target, is of particular significance in that it demonstrates that good results can be obtained for large, complex ligands, as opposed to relatively simple model systems. To achieve quantitative agreement with experiment in the thrombin case, a next generation force field, Optimized Potentials for Liquid Simulations 2.0, is required, which provides superior charges and torsional parameters as compared to earlier alternatives.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acetamides / metabolism
  • Bacteriophage T4 / enzymology
  • Benzene / metabolism
  • Binding Sites
  • Computer Simulation*
  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • Ligands
  • Models, Molecular
  • Muramidase / chemistry
  • Muramidase / metabolism
  • Mutant Proteins / metabolism
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Conformation
  • Proteins / metabolism*
  • Thermodynamics
  • Thrombin / chemistry
  • Thrombin / metabolism
  • Valine / metabolism
  • Xylenes / metabolism


  • Acetamides
  • Ligands
  • Mutant Proteins
  • Proteins
  • Xylenes
  • acetamide
  • Muramidase
  • Thrombin
  • Valine
  • Benzene