Electron-density descriptors as predictors in quantitative structure-activity/property relationships and drug design

Chérif F. Matta, Alya A. Arabi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

55 Citations (Scopus)


The use of electron density-based molecular descriptors in drug research, particularly in quantitative structure-activity relationships/quantitative structure-property relationships studies, is reviewed. The exposition starts by a discussion of molecular similarity and transferability in terms of the underlying electron density, which leads to a qualitative introduction to the quantum theory of atoms in molecules (QTAIM). The starting point of QTAIM is the topological analysis of the molecular electron-density distributions to extract atomic and bond properties that characterize every atom and bond in the molecule. These atomic and bond properties have considerable potential as bases for the construction of robust quantitative structure-activity/property relationships models as shown by selected examples in this review. QTAIM is applicable to the electron density calculated from quantum-chemical calculations and/or that obtained from ultra-high resolution x-ray diffraction experiments followed by nonspherical refinement. Atomic and bond properties are introduced followed by examples of application of each of these two families of descriptors. The review ends with a study whereby the molecular electrostatic potential, uniquely determined by the density, is used in conjunction with atomic properties to elucidate the reasons for the biological similarity of bioisosteres.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)969-994
Number of pages26
JournalFuture Medicinal Chemistry
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmacology
  • Drug Discovery


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