Molecular similarity indices in a comparative analysis (CoMSIA) of drug molecules to correlate and predict their biological activity

J Med Chem. 1994 Nov 25;37(24):4130-46. doi: 10.1021/jm00050a010.


An alternative approach is reported to compute property fields based on similarity indices of drug molecules that have been brought into a common alignment. The fields of different physicochemical properties use a Gaussian-type distance dependence, and no singularities occur at the atomic positions. Accordingly, no arbitrary definitions of cutoff limits and deficiencies due to different slopes of the fields are encountered. The fields are evaluated by a PLS analysis similar to the CoMFA formalism. Two data sets of steroids binding to the corticosteroid-binding-globulin and thermolysin inhibitors were analyzed in terms of the conventional CoMFA method (Lennard-Jones and Coulomb potential fields) and the new comparative molecular similarity indices analysis (CoMSIA). Models of comparative statistical significance were obtained. Field contribution maps were produced for the different models. Due to cutoff settings in the CoMFA fields and the steepness of the potentials close to the molecular surface, the CoMFA maps are often rather fragmentary and not contiguously connected. This makes their interpretation difficult. The maps obtained by the new CoMSIA approach are superior and easier to interpret. Whereas the CoMFA maps denote regions apart from the molecules where interactions with a putative environment are to be expected, the CoMSIA maps highlight those regions within the area occupied by the ligand skeletons that require a particular physicochemical property important for activity. This is a more significant guide to trace the features that really matter especially with respect to the design of novel compounds.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Conformation
  • Steroids / chemistry
  • Steroids / metabolism
  • Steroids / pharmacology*
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Thermolysin / antagonists & inhibitors*


  • Steroids
  • Thermolysin