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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Experimental validation of FINDSITEcomb virtual ligand screening results for eight proteins yields novel nanomolar and micromolar binders

Bharath Srinivasan1, Hongyi Zhou1, Julia Kubanek23 and Jeffrey Skolnick1*

Author Affiliations

1 Center for the Study of Systems Biology, School of Biology, Georgia Institute of Technology, 250, 14th Street, N.W., Atlanta, GA 30318, USA

2 School of Biology, Atlanta, GA 30332, USA

3 School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Aquatic Chemical Ecology Center, Institute of Bioengineering and Biosciences, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA 30332, USA

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Journal of Cheminformatics 2014, 6:16  doi:10.1186/1758-2946-6-16

Published: 26 April 2014



Identification of ligand-protein binding interactions is a critical step in drug discovery. Experimental screening of large chemical libraries, in spite of their specific role and importance in drug discovery, suffer from the disadvantages of being random, time-consuming and expensive. To accelerate the process, traditional structure- or ligand-based VLS approaches are combined with experimental high-throughput screening, HTS. Often a single protein or, at most, a protein family is considered. Large scale VLS benchmarking across diverse protein families is rarely done, and the reported success rate is very low. Here, we demonstrate the experimental HTS validation of a novel VLS approach, FINDSITEcomb, across a diverse set of medically-relevant proteins.


For eight different proteins belonging to different fold-classes and from diverse organisms, the top 1% of FINDSITEcomb’s VLS predictions were tested, and depending on the protein target, 4%-47% of the predicted ligands were shown to bind with μM or better affinities. In total, 47 small molecule binders were identified. Low nanomolar (nM) binders for dihydrofolate reductase and protein tyrosine phosphatases (PTPs) and micromolar binders for the other proteins were identified. Six novel molecules had cytotoxic activity (<10 μg/ml) against the HCT-116 colon carcinoma cell line and one novel molecule had potent antibacterial activity.


We show that FINDSITEcomb is a promising new VLS approach that can assist drug discovery.

Drug discovery; Virtual ligand screening (VLS); High-throughput screening (HTS); Differential scanning fluorimetry (DSF); Ligand homology modeling

Graphical abstract