One can think of molecular docking
as a problem of “lock-and-key”, in which one wants to find the correct relative orientation of the “key” which will open up the “lock” (where on the surface of the lock is the key hole, which direction to turn the key after it is inserted, etc.). Here, the protein can be thought of as the “lock” and the ligand can be thought of as a “key”. Molecular docking may be defined as an optimization problem, which would describe the “best-fit” orientation of a ligand that binds to a particular protein of interest. However, since both the ligand and the protein are flexible, a “hand-in-glove” analogy is more appropriate than “lock-and-key”. During the course of the docking process, the ligand and the protein adjust their conformation to achieve an overall "best-fit" and this kind of conformational adjustment resulting in the overall binding is referred to as "induced-fit". Molecular docking research focuses on computationally simulating the molecular recognition process. It aims to achieve an optimized conformation for both the protein and ligand and relative orientation between protein and ligand such that the free energy of the overall system is minimized. Two approaches are particularly popular within the molecular docking
community. One approach uses a matching technique that describes the protein and the ligand as complementary surfaces. The second approach simulates the actual docking process in which the ligand-protein pairwise interaction energies are calculated. Both approaches have significant advantages as well as some limitations. These are outlined below. Geometric matching/ shape complementarity methods describe the protein and ligand as a set of features that make them dockable. These features may include molecular surface / complementary surface descriptors. In this case, the receptor's molecular surface is described in terms of its solvent-accessible surface area and the ligand's molecular surface is described in terms of its matching surface description. The complementarity between the two surfaces amounts to the shape matching description that may help finding the complementary pose of docking the target and the ligand molecules. Another approach is to describe the hydrophobic features of the protein using turns in the main-chain atoms. Yet another approach is to use a Fourier shape descriptor technique.
Relevant Topics in Medical Sciences