Public resources for chemical probes: the journey so far and the road ahead

Future Med Chem. 2021 Apr;13(8):731-747. doi: 10.4155/fmc-2019-0231. Epub 2019 Nov 28.


High-quality small molecule chemical probes are extremely valuable for biological research and target validation. However, frequent use of flawed small-molecule inhibitors produces misleading results and diminishes the robustness of biomedical research. Several public resources are available to facilitate assessment and selection of better chemical probes for specific protein targets. Here, we review chemical probe resources, discuss their current strengths and limitations, and make recommendations for further improvements. Expert review resources provide in-depth analysis but currently cover only a limited portion of the liganded proteome. Computational resources encompass more proteins and are regularly updated, but have limitations in data availability and curation. We show how biomedical scientists may use these resources to choose the best available chemical probes for their research.

Keywords: chemical biology; chemical probes; chemical tools; protein targets; resources.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Computer Simulation
  • Databases, Chemical
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / chemistry*
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Molecular Probes / chemistry*
  • Molecular Probes / pharmacology
  • Proteins / metabolism*
  • Proteome / chemistry
  • Small Molecule Libraries / chemistry*
  • Small Molecule Libraries / pharmacology
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Molecular Probes
  • Proteins
  • Proteome
  • Small Molecule Libraries