Fragment Pose Prediction Using Non-Equilibrium Candidate Monte Carlo and Molecular Dynamics Simulations

12 November 2019, Version 2
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


Part of early stage drug discovery involves determining how molecules may bind to the target protein. Through understanding where and how molecules bind, chemists can begin to build ideas on how to design improvements to increase binding affinities. In this retrospective study, we compare how computational approaches like docking, molecular dynamics (MD) simulations, and a non-equilibrium candidate Monte Carlo (NCMC) based method (NCMC+MD) perform in predicting binding modes for a set of 12 fragment-like molecules which bind to soluble epoxide hydrolase. We evaluate each method's effectiveness in identifying the dominant binding mode and finding any additional binding modes (if any). Then, we compare our predicted binding modes to experimentally obtained X-ray crystal structures.
We dock each of the 12 small molecules into the apo-protein crystal structure and then run simulations up to 1 microsecond each. Small and fragment-like molecules likely have smaller energy barriers separating different binding modes by virtue of relatively fewer and weaker interactions relative to drug-like molecules, and thus likely undergo more rapid binding mode transitions. We expect, thus, to see more rapid transitions betweeen binding modes in our study.

Following this, we build Markov State Models (MSM) to define our stable ligand binding modes. We investigate if adequate sampling of ligand binding modes and transitions between them can occur at the microsecond timescale using traditional MD or a hybrid NCMC+MD simulation approach. Our findings suggest that even with small fragment-like molecules, we fail to sample all the crystallographic binding modes using microsecond MD simulations, but using NCMC+MD we have better success in sampling the crystal structure while obtaining the correct populations.


protein-ligand interactions
binding mode prediction
Monte Carlo
molecular dynamics

Supplementary materials



Comments are not moderated before they are posted, but they can be removed by the site moderators if they are found to be in contravention of our Commenting Policy [opens in a new tab] - please read this policy before you post. Comments should be used for scholarly discussion of the content in question. You can find more information about how to use the commenting feature here [opens in a new tab] .
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy [opens in a new tab] and Terms of Service [opens in a new tab] apply.