3D-QSAR based on quantum-chemical molecular fields: toward an improved description of halogen interactions

S. Gussregen, H. Matter, G. Hessler, M. Muller, F. Schmidt, Tim Clark

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Current 3D-QSAR methods such as CoMFA or CoMSIA make use of classical force-field approaches for calculating molecular fields. Thus, they can not adequately account for noncovalent interactions involving halogen atoms like halogen bonds or halogen−π interactions. These deficiencies in the underlying force fields result from the lack of treatment of the anisotropy of the electron density distribution of those atoms, known as the “σ-hole”, although recent developments have begun to take specific interactions such as halogen bonding into account. We have now replaced classical force field derived molecular fields by local properties such as the local ionization energy, local electron affinity, or local polarizability, calculated using quantum-mechanical (QM) techniques that do not suffer from the above limitation for 3D-QSAR. We first investigate the characteristics of QM-based local property fields to show that they are suitable for statistical analyses after suitable pretreatment. We then analyze these property fields with partial least-squares (PLS) regression to predict biological affinities of two data sets comprising factor Xa and GABA-A/benzodiazepine receptor ligands. While the resulting models perform equally well or even slightly better in terms of consistency and predictivity than the classical CoMFA fields, the most important aspect of these augmented field-types is that the chemical interpretation of resulting QM-based property field models reveals unique SAR trends driven by electrostatic and polarizability effects, which cannot be extracted directly from CoMFA electrostatic maps. Within the factor Xa set, the interaction of chlorine and bromine atoms with a tyrosine side chain in the protease S1 pocket are correctly predicted. Within the GABA-A/benzodiazepine ligand data set, PLS models of high predictivity resulted for our QM-based property fields, providing novel insights into key features of the SAR for two receptor subtypes and cross-receptor selectivity of the ligands. The detailed interpretation of regression models derived using improved QM-derived property fields thus provides a significant advantage by revealing chemically meaningful correlations with biological activity and helps in understanding novel structure–activity relationship features. This will allow such knowledge to be used to design novel molecules on the basis of interactions additional to steric and hydrogen-bonding features.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2441-2453
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Chemical Information and Modelling
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 24 Sept 2012


Dive into the research topics of '3D-QSAR based on quantum-chemical molecular fields: toward an improved description of halogen interactions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this