To investigate the effects of multiple protonation states on protein–ligand recognition, we generated alternative protonation states for selected titratable groups of ligands and receptors. The selection of states was based on the predicted pK a of the unbound receptor and ligand and the proximity of titratable groups of the receptor to the binding site. Various ligand tautomer states were also considered. An independent docking calculation was run for each state. Several protocols were examined: using an ensemble of all generated states of ligand and receptor, using only the most probable state of the unbound ligand/receptor, and using only the state giving the most favorable docking score. The accuracies of these approaches were compared, using a set of 176 protein–ligand complexes (15 receptors) for which crystal structures and measured binding affinities are available. The best agreement with experiment was obtained when ligand poses from experimental crystal structures were used. For 9 of 15 receptors, using an ensemble of all generated protonation states of the ligand and receptor gave the best correlation between calculated and measured affinities. Proteins 2010. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.