Small molecules are recognized in protein-binding pockets through surface-exposed physicochemical properties. To optimize binding, they have to adopt a conformation corresponding to a local energy minimum within the formed protein–ligand complex. However, their conformational flexibility makes them competent to bind not only to homologous proteins of the same family but also to proteins of remote similarity with respect to the shape of the binding pockets and folding pattern. Considering drug action, such observations can give rise tounexpected and undesired cross reactivity. In this study, datasets of six different cofactors (ADP, ATP, NAD(P)(H), FAD, and acetyl CoA, sharing an adenosine diphosphate moiety as common substructure), observed in multiple crystal structures of protein–cofactor complexes exhibiting sequence identity below 25%, have been analyzed for the conformational properties of the bound ligands, the distribution of physicochemical properties in the accommodating protein-binding pockets, and the local folding patterns next to the cofactor-binding site. State-of-the-art clustering techniques have been applied to group the different protein–cofactor complexes in the different spaces. Interestingly, clustering in cavity (Cavbase) and fold space (DALI) reveals virtually the same data structuring. Remarkable relationships can be found among the different spaces. They provide information on how conformations are conserved across the host proteins and which distinct local cavity and fold motifs recognize the different portions of the cofactors. In those cases, where different cofactors are found to be accommodated in a similar fashion to the same fold motifs, only a commonly shared substructure of the cofactors is used for the recognition process. Proteins 2012. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
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