Despite the progress made in studying protein–ligand interactions and the widespread application of docking and affinity prediction tools, improving their precision and efficiency still remains a challenge. Computational approaches based on the scoring of docking conformations with statistical potentials constitute a popular alternative to more accurate but costly physics-based thermodynamic sampling methods. In this context, a minimalist and fast sidechain-free knowledge-based potential with a high docking and screening power can be very useful when screening a big number of putative docking conformations.


Here, we present a novel coarse-grained potential defined by a 3D joint probability distribution function that only depends on the pairwise orientation and position between protein backbone and ligand atoms. Despite its extreme simplicity, our approach yields very competitive results with the state-of-the-art scoring functions, especially in docking and screening tasks. For example, we observed a twofold improvement in the median 5% enrichment factor on the DUD-E benchmark compared to Autodock Vina results. Moreover, our results prove that a coarse sidechain-free potential is sufficient for a very successful docking pose prediction.

Availabilityand implementation

The standalone version of KORP-PL with the corresponding tests and benchmarks are available at and

Supplementary information

Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.

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