Van der Waals forces are determinants of the formation of protein-ligand complexes. Physical models based on the Lennard-Jones potential can estimate van der Waals interactions with considerable accuracy and with a computational complexity that allows its application to molecular docking simulations and virtual screening of large databases of small organic molecules. Several empirical scoring functions used to evaluate protein-ligand interactions approximate van der Waals interactions with the Lennard-Jones potential. In this chapter, we present the main concepts necessary to understand van der Waals interactions relevant to molecular recognition of a ligand by the binding pocket of a protein target. We describe the Lennard-Jones potential and its application to calculate potential energy for an ensemble of structures to highlight the main features related to the importance of this interaction for binding affinity.


Bitencourt-Ferreira, Gabriela;  Veit-Acosta, Martina;  de Azevedo, Walter Filgueira, Jr.

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