• ligand–receptor interaction;
  • principal components of motion;
  • receptor flexibility;
  • global deformations;
  • molecular mechanics;
  • docking minimization


Most current docking methods to identify possible ligands and putative binding sites on a receptor molecule assume a rigid receptor structure to allow virtual screening of large ligand databases. However, binding of a ligand can lead to changes in the receptor protein conformation that are sterically necessary to accommodate a bound ligand. An approach is presented that allows relaxation of the protein conformation in precalculated soft flexible degrees of freedom during ligand–receptor docking. For the immunosuppressant FK506-binding protein FKBP, the soft flexible modes are extracted as principal components of motion from a molecular dynamics simulation. A simple penalty function for deformations in the soft flexible mode is used to limit receptor protein deformations during docking that avoids a costly recalculation of the receptor energy by summing over all receptor atom pairs at each step. Rigid docking of the FK506 ligand binding to an unbound FKBP conformation failed to identify a geometry close to experiment as favorable binding site. In contrast, inclusion of the flexible soft modes during systematic docking runs selected a binding geometry close to experiment as lowest energy conformation. This has been achieved at a modest increase of computational cost compared to rigid docking. The approach could provide a computationally efficient way to approximately account for receptor flexibility during docking of large numbers of putative ligands and putative docking geometries. Proteins 2004;54:000–000. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.