Water network perturbation in ligand binding: adenosine A(2A) antagonists as a case study

J Chem Inf Model. 2013 Jul 22;53(7):1700-13. doi: 10.1021/ci4001458. Epub 2013 Jun 14.


Recent efforts in the computational evaluation of the thermodynamic properties of water molecules have resulted in the development of promising new in silico methods to evaluate the role of water in ligand binding. These methods include WaterMap, SZMAP, GRID/CRY probe, and Grand Canonical Monte Carlo simulations. They allow the prediction of the position and relative free energy of the water molecule in the protein active site and the analysis of the perturbation of an explicit water network (WNP) as a consequence of ligand binding. We have for the first time extended these approaches toward the prediction of kinetics for small molecules and of relative free energy of binding with a focus on the perturbation of the water network and application to large diverse data sets. Our results support a qualitative correlation between the residence time of 12 related triazine adenosine A(2A) receptor antagonists and the number and position of high energy trapped solvent molecules. From a quantitative viewpoint, we successfully applied these computational techniques as an implicit solvent alternative, in linear combination with a molecular mechanics force field, to predict the relative ligand free energy of binding (WNP-MMSA). The applicability of this linear method, based on the thermodynamics additivity principle, did not extend to 375 diverse A(2A) receptor antagonists. However, a fast but effective method could be enabled by replacing the linear approach with a machine learning technique using probabilistic classification trees, which classified the binding affinity correctly for 90% of the ligands in the training set and 67% in the test set.

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine A2 Receptor Antagonists / chemistry
  • Adenosine A2 Receptor Antagonists / metabolism*
  • Algorithms
  • Kinetics
  • Ligands
  • Models, Molecular*
  • Monte Carlo Method
  • Probability
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Conformation
  • Receptor, Adenosine A2A / chemistry
  • Receptor, Adenosine A2A / metabolism*
  • Thermodynamics
  • Water / chemistry*


  • Adenosine A2 Receptor Antagonists
  • Ligands
  • Receptor, Adenosine A2A
  • Water