PatchSurfers: Two methods for local molecular property-based binding ligand prediction

Methods. 2016 Jan 15;93:41-50. doi: 10.1016/j.ymeth.2015.09.026. Epub 2015 Sep 30.


Protein function prediction is an active area of research in computational biology. Function prediction can help biologists make hypotheses for characterization of genes and help interpret biological assays, and thus is a productive area for collaboration between experimental and computational biologists. Among various function prediction methods, predicting binding ligand molecules for a target protein is an important class because ligand binding events for a protein are usually closely intertwined with the proteins' biological function, and also because predicted binding ligands can often be directly tested by biochemical assays. Binding ligand prediction methods can be classified into two types: those which are based on protein-protein (or pocket-pocket) comparison, and those that compare a target pocket directly to ligands. Recently, our group proposed two computational binding ligand prediction methods, Patch-Surfer, which is a pocket-pocket comparison method, and PL-PatchSurfer, which compares a pocket to ligand molecules. The two programs apply surface patch-based descriptions to calculate similarity or complementarity between molecules. A surface patch is characterized by physicochemical properties such as shape, hydrophobicity, and electrostatic potentials. These properties on the surface are represented using three-dimensional Zernike descriptors (3DZD), which are based on a series expansion of a 3 dimensional function. Utilizing 3DZD for describing the physicochemical properties has two main advantages: (1) rotational invariance and (2) fast comparison. Here, we introduce Patch-Surfer and PL-PatchSurfer with an emphasis on PL-PatchSurfer, which is more recently developed. Illustrative examples of PL-PatchSurfer performance on binding ligand prediction as well as virtual drug screening are also provided.

Keywords: 3D Zernike descriptor; Ligand binding pockets; Ligand–protein interaction; Patch-Surfer; Protein function prediction; Structure–function relationship.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Binding Sites / physiology
  • Computational Biology / methods*
  • Databases, Protein*
  • Forecasting
  • Ligands
  • Protein Binding / physiology
  • Protein Structure, Secondary
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Proteins / chemistry*
  • Proteins / metabolism*


  • Ligands
  • Proteins