Bioisosteres are functional groups or atoms that are structurally different but that can form similar intermolecular interactions. Potential bioisosteres were identified here from analysing the X-ray crystallographic structures for sets of different ligands complexed with a fixed protein. The protein was used to align the ligands with each other, and then pairs of ligands compared to identify substructural features with high volume overlap that occurred in approximately the same region of geometric space. The resulting pairs of substructural features can suggest potential bioisosteric replacements for use in lead-optimisation studies. Experiments with 12 sets of ligand-protein complexes from the Protein Data Bank demonstrate the effectiveness of the procedure
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