Novel approach for efficient pharmacophore-based virtual screening: Method and applications

Oranit Dror, Dina Schneidman-Duhovny, Yuval Inbar, Ruth Nussinov, Haim J. Wolfson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Virtual screening is emerging as a productive and cost-effective technology in rational drug design for the identification of novel lead compounds. An important model for virtual screening is the pharmacophore. Pharmacophore is the spatial configuration of essential features that enable a ligand molecule to interact with a specific target receptor. In the absence of a known receptor structure, a pharmacophore can be identified from a set of ligands that have been observed to interact with the target receptor. Here, we present a novel computational method for pharmacophore detection and virtual screening. The pharmacophore detection module is able to (i) align multiple flexible ligands in a deterministic manner without exhaustive enumeration of the conformational space, (ii) detect subsets of input ligands that may bind to different binding sites or have different binding modes, (iii) address cases where the input ligands have different affinities by defining weighted pharmacophores based on the number of ligands that share them, and (iv) automatically select the most appropriate pharmacophore candidates for virtual screening. The algorithm is highly efficient, allowing a fast exploration of the chemical space by virtual screening of huge compound databases. The performance of PharmaGist was successfully evaluated on a commonly used data set of G-Protein Coupled Receptor alphalA. Additionally, a large-scale evaluation using the DUD (directory of useful decoys) data set was performed. DUD contains 2950 active ligands for 40 different receptors, with 36 decoy compounds for each active ligand. PharmaGist enrichment rates are comparable with other state-of-the-art tools for virtual screening.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2333-2343
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Chemical Information and Modeling
Issue number10
StatePublished - 26 Oct 2009


FundersFunder number
National Cancer InstituteZIABC010442


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