Evaluation of AlphaFold2 Structures for Hit Identification across Multiple Scenarios

Shukai Gu, Yuwei Yang, Yihao Zhao, Jiayue Qiu, Xiaorui Wang, Henry Hoi Yee Tong, Liwei Liu, Xiaozhe Wan, Huanxiang Liu, Tingjun Hou, Yu Kang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The introduction of AlphaFold2 (AF2) has sparked significant enthusiasm and generated extensive discussion within the scientific community, particularly among drug discovery researchers. Although previous studies have addressed the performance of AF2 structures in virtual screening (VS), a more comprehensive investigation is still necessary considering the paramount importance of structural accuracy in drug design. In this study, we evaluate the performance of AF2 structures in VS across three common drug discovery scenarios: targets with holo, apo, and AF2 structures; targets with only apo and AF2 structures; and targets exclusively with AF2 structures. We utilized both the traditional physics-based Glide and the deep-learning-based scoring function RTMscore to rank the compounds in the DUD-E, DEKOIS 2.0, and DECOY data sets. The results demonstrate that, overall, the performance of VS on AF2 structures is comparable to that on apo structures but notably inferior to that on holo structures across diverse scenarios. Moreover, when a target has solely AF2 structure, selecting the holo structure of the target from different subtypes within the same protein family produces comparable results with the AF2 structure for VS on the data set of the AF2 structures, and significantly better results than the AF2 structures on its own data set. This indicates that utilizing AF2 structures for docking-based VS may not yield most satisfactory outcomes, even when solely AF2 structures are available. Moreover, we rule out the possibility that the variations in VS performance between the binding pockets of AF2 and holo structures arise from the differences in their biological assembly composition.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Chemical Information and Modeling
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2023


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