Background: Tools to explore large compound databases in search for analogs of query molecules provide a strategically important support in drug discovery to help identify available analogs of any given reference or hit compound by ligand based virtual screening (LBVS). We recently showed that large databases can be formatted for very fast searching with various 2D-fingerprints using the city-block distance as similarity measure, in particular a 2D-atom pair fingerprint (APfp) and the related category extended atom pair fingerprint (Xfp) which efficiently encode molecular shape and pharmacophores, but do not perceive stereochemistry. Here we investigated related 3D-atom pair fingerprints to enable rapid stereoselective searches in the ZINC database (23.2 million 3D structures).
Results: Molecular fingerprints counting atom pairs at increasing through-space distance intervals were designed using either all atoms (16-bit 3DAPfp) or different atom categories (80-bit 3DXfp). These 3D-fingerprints retrieved molecular shape and pharmacophore analogs (defined by OpenEye ROCS scoring functions) of 110,000 compounds from the Cambridge Structural Database with equal or better accuracy than the 2D-fingerprints APfp and Xfp, and showed comparable performance in recovering actives from decoys in the DUD database. LBVS by 3DXfp or 3DAPfp similarity was stereoselective and gave very different analogs when starting from different diastereomers of the same chiral drug. Results were also different from LBVS with the parent 2D-fingerprints Xfp or APfp. 3D- and 2D-fingerprints also gave very different results in LBVS of folded molecules where through-space distances between atom pairs are much shorter than topological distances.
Conclusions: 3DAPfp and 3DXfp are suitable for stereoselective searches for shape and pharmacophore analogs of query molecules in large databases. Web-browsers for searching ZINC by 3DAPfp and 3DXfp similarity are accessible at www.gdb.unibe.ch and should provide useful assistance to drug discovery projects. Graphical abstractAtom pair fingerprints based on through-space distances (3DAPfp) provide better shape encoding than atom pair fingerprints based on topological distances (APfp) as measured by the recovery of ROCS shape analogs by fp similarity.
Keywords: Atom pairs; Chemical space; Databases; Fingerprints; Molecular shape; Pharmacophores; Stereoselectivity; Virtual screening.