SuCOS is Better than RMSD for Evaluating Fragment Elaboration and Docking Poses

One of the fundamental assumptions of fragment-based drug discovery is that the fragment’s binding mode will be conserved upon elaboration into larger compounds. The most common way of quantifying binding mode similarity is Root Mean Square Deviation (RMSD), but Protein Ligand Interaction Fingerprint (PLIF) similarity and shape-based metrics are sometimes used. We introduce SuCOS, an open-source shape and chemical feature overlap metric. We explore the strengths and weaknesses of RMSD, PLIF similarity, and SuCOS on a dataset of X-ray crystal structures of paired elaborated larger and smaller molecules bound to the same protein. Our redocking and cross-docking studies show that SuCOS is superior to RMSD and PLIF similarity. When redocking, SuCOS produces fewer false positives and false negatives than RMSD and PLIF similarity; and in cross-docking, SuCOS is better at differentiating experimentally-observed binding modes of an elaborated molecule given the pose of its non-elaborated counterpart. Finally we show that SuCOS performs better than AutoDock Vina at differentiating actives from decoy ligands using the DUD-E dataset. SuCOS is available at https://github.com/susanhleung/SuCOS . <br>