Chemical, target, and bioactive properties of allosteric modulation

PLoS Comput Biol. 2014 Apr 3;10(4):e1003559. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003559. eCollection 2014 Apr.


Allosteric modulators are ligands for proteins that exert their effects via a different binding site than the natural (orthosteric) ligand site and hence form a conceptually distinct class of ligands for a target of interest. Here, the physicochemical and structural features of a large set of allosteric and non-allosteric ligands from the ChEMBL database of bioactive molecules are analyzed. In general allosteric modulators are relatively smaller, more lipophilic and more rigid compounds, though large differences exist between different targets and target classes. Furthermore, there are differences in the distribution of targets that bind these allosteric modulators. Allosteric modulators are over-represented in membrane receptors, ligand-gated ion channels and nuclear receptor targets, but are underrepresented in enzymes (primarily proteases and kinases). Moreover, allosteric modulators tend to bind to their targets with a slightly lower potency (5.96 log units versus 6.66 log units, p<0.01). However, this lower absolute affinity is compensated by their lower molecular weight and more lipophilic nature, leading to similar binding efficiency and surface efficiency indices. Subsequently a series of classifier models are trained, initially target class independent models followed by finer-grained target (architecture/functional class) based models using the target hierarchy of the ChEMBL database. Applications of these insights include the selection of likely allosteric modulators from existing compound collections, the design of novel chemical libraries biased towards allosteric regulators and the selection of targets potentially likely to yield allosteric modulators on screening. All data sets used in the paper are available for download.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Allosteric Regulation
  • Databases, Chemical
  • Ligands
  • Models, Chemical*
  • Molecular Weight


  • Ligands