Structural diversity of biologically interesting datasets: A scaffold analysis approach

Varun Khanna, Shoba Ranganathan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The recent public availability of the human metabolome and natural product datasets has revitalized "metabolite-likeness" and "natural product-likeness" as a drug design concept to design lead libraries targeting specific pathways. Many reports have analyzed the physicochemical property space of biologically important datasets, with only a few comprehensively characterizing the scaffold diversity in public datasets of biological interest. With large collections of high quality public data currently available, we carried out a comparative analysis of current day leads with other biologically relevant datasets. Results: In this study, we note a two-fold enrichment of metabolite scaffolds in drug dataset (42%) as compared to currently used lead libraries (23%). We also note that only a small percentage (5%) of natural product scaffolds space is shared by the lead dataset. We have identified specific scaffolds that are present in metabolites and natural products, with close counterparts in the drugs, but are missing in the lead dataset. To determine the distribution of compounds in physicochemical property space we analyzed the molecular polar surface area, the molecular solubility, the number of rings and the number of rotatable bonds in addition to four well-known Lipinski properties. Here, we note that, with only few exceptions, most of the drugs follow Lipinski's rule. The average values of the molecular polar surface area and the molecular solubility in metabolites is the highest while the number of rings is the lowest. In addition, we note that natural products contain the maximum number of rings and the rotatable bonds than any other dataset under consideration. Conclusions: Currently used lead libraries make little use of the metabolites and natural products scaffold space. We believe that metabolites and natural products are recognized by at least one protein in the biosphere therefore, sampling the fragment and scaffold space of these compounds, along with the knowledge of distribution in physicochemical property space, can result in better lead libraries. Hence, we recommend the greater use of metabolites and natural products while designing lead libraries. Nevertheless, metabolites have a imited distribution in chemical space that limits the usage of metabolites in library design.

Original languageEnglish
Article number30
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Cheminformatics
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2011


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