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PocketGraph: graph representation of binding site volumes

The representation of small molecules as molecular graphs [1] is a common technique in various fields of cheminformatics. This approach employs abstract descriptions of topology and properties for rapid analyses and comparison. Receptor-based methods in contrast mostly depend on more complex representations impeding simplified analysis and limiting the possibilities of property assignment. In this study we demonstrate that ligand-based methods can be applied to receptor-derived binding site analysis.

We introduce the new method PocketGraph that translates representations of binding site volumes into linear graphs and enables the application of graph-based methods to the world of protein pockets. The method uses the PocketPicker [2] algorithm for characterization of binding site volumes and employs a Growing Neural Gas [3] procedure to derive graph representations of pocket topologies.

Self-organizing map (SOM) projections revealed a limited number of pocket topologies. We argue that there is only a small set of pocket shapes realized in the known ligand-receptor complexes.


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  2. Weisel M, Proschak E, Schneider G: PocketPicker: Analysis of Ligand Binding-Sites with Shape Descriptors. Chem Cent J. 2007, 1: 7-10.1186/1752-153X-1-7.

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  3. Fritzke B: Growing cell structures – a selforganizing network for unsupervised and supervised learning. Neural Networks. 1994, 7: 1441-1460. 10.1016/0893-6080(94)90091-4.

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Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Weisel, M., Kriegl, J. & Schneider, G. PocketGraph: graph representation of binding site volumes. Chemistry Central Journal 3 (Suppl 1), P66 (2009).

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