We’ve previously discussed the proliferation of metrics used to evaluate fragments. Ligand efficiency is by far the most popular, and what it and most other measurements have in common is that they represent binding affinity (or inhibition, or some other surrogate). Binding affinity is associated with thermodynamics – how well a molecule binds to a target – but this measure says nothing about how rapidly a molecule associates and dissociates from the target (kinetics). In the November issue of Drug Discovery Today Geoffrey Holdgate and Adrian Gill at AstraZeneca propose a new metric, kinetic efficiency (KE), to address this issue:
KE = τ / (# of heavy atoms) = t1/2 / (0.693 * (# of heavy atoms))
where τ is the residence time or relaxation constant and is, in the simplest case, 1/koff
koff is the dissociation rate constant
and t1/2 is the half-life for dissociation
Why are the kinetics of dissociation important? Holdgate and Gill list a series of drugs for hypertension and note that compounds that remain bound to the receptor longer avoid rapid clearance and thus have superior clinical activity. On the other hand, drugs for schizophrenia that bind the D2 dopamine receptor can cause side effects if they remain bound too long. Thus, optimal kinetic efficiency is case-dependent .
Though kinetics of ligand binding can be assessed with techniques like SPR, this parameter is often ignored. However, as Holdgate and Gill point out, slow-binders are likely to be lead-sized or drug-sized molecules. Indeed, none of the roughly two-dozen examples they present would satisfy the rule of 3.
This raises an interesting question: how often do fragments dissociate slowly? Slowly-dissociating fragments are often flagged as pathological in SPR studies. Intuitively it seems that smaller molecules would have faster kinetics; a small fragment is likely to be able to dart in and out of a protein-binding site more rapidly than a larger molecule that requires some movement on the part of the protein to accommodate its binding. Still, there must be some cases of fragments with slow dissociation rate constants. If you know of any please mention them in the comments section.