2021 DOCK tutorial 3 with PDBID 1S19

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Developed by Irwin D. Kuntz, Jr. and colleagues at UCSF, DOCK is a program used to dock molecules to one another. Docking is a process in which given a small molecule or ligand in the active site of a receptor, the program will try to predict the lowest-energy binding mode of the ligand to the receptor. This process is very important in drug discovery as small molecules that bind to or interact with the active site of a receptor associated with a disease could inhibit its function, acting as a drug. DOCK is a particularly helpful tool as it is used to screen massive libraries of molecules, containing millions of compounds, against a receptor to identify the most promising drug lead compounds.

DOCK historically used a geometric matching algorithm to superimpose the ligand onto a negative image of the active site of the receptor. Over the years, features were added that would improve the programs ability to find the lowest-energy binding mode. Somem of these features include force-field based scoring, on-the-fly optimization and an algorithm for flexible ligand docking.

In this tutorial DOCK6 will be used. New features for DOCK6 include: additional scoring options during minimization; DOCK 3.5 scoring-including Delphi electrostatics, ligand conformational entropy corrections, ligand desolvation, receptor desolvation; Hawkins-Cramer-Truhlar GB/SA solvation scoring with optional salt screening and more (see UCSF DOCK). These new features improved the programs ability to predict binding poses.


This tutorial will use PDB code: 1S19. 1S19 is the crystal structure of VDR ligand binding domain complexed to calcipotriol (find structure here. The resolution is 2.10 Å.


UCSF Chimera was developed by Resource for Biocomputing, Visualization, and Informatics (RBVI) at the University of California, San Francisco. Chimera is a program made for the interactive visualization and analysis of molecular structures. Some features of Chimera include general structure analysis (automatic identification of an atom, hydrogen addition and partial charge assignment, structure building and bond rotation, etc.) presenting images and movies (high-res images, visual effects, standard molecular representations, etc.) and sequence structure tools (sequence alignments, structure superposition, etc.)

Making Directories

To make it easier for us to locate certain files, we are going to create directories for each step of the docking process. The mkdir command creates a new directory in which new files can be saved. The cd command allows for you to navigate between directories.

In your Bash Shell environment, create a directory containing all of the information for the project by typing:

  mkdir 1S19

To change into that directory type:

  cd 1S19

To create the directories for each step:

  mkdir 001.structure 002.surface_spheres 003.gridbox 004.dock 005.virtual_screen 006.virtual_screen_mpi 007.cartesianmin 008.rescore

To confirm that the directories have been created:


If you made a mistake and need to delete a directory:

  rm *insert name of directory to be deleted*

Preparing the Ligand and Receptor

PDB Structure

Download the structure of 1S19 from the Protein Data Bank (PDB).

  Download Files -> PDB Format

This file contains the coordinates for the 3D structure of the receptor, ligand and any other molecules present during the experiment (typically water or metal ions). To visualize the structure, we will be using Chimera.

Visualization with Chimera To open the newly downloaded PDB coordinates:

  File -> Open 

The protein when you first open the file should look like the image below. You can change the view of the structure by rotating it with your mouse or touchpad. Currently, some of the side chains of the backbone are shown, there are no hydrogens or partial charges, and there are some water molecules present.

File:1s19 unedited.png
Figure 1. Unedited PDB file of 1S19 visualized in Chimera.


In order to dock, the ligand and receptor have to be separated and saved into different files. To do this is a simple process and can be done in Chimera. To hide all sidechain bonds:

  Select -> standard amino acids 
  Actions -> Atoms/Bonds -> hide

To prepare the receptor, we are going to want to delete everythign except the protein from the PDB file. To do this in Chimera:

  Select -> Residue -> All nonstandard
  Actions -> Atoms/Bonds -> Delete

You will now be left with only the desired protein. To save this file, we are going to save it as a mol2 file. This can be done by:

  File -> Save Mol2 -> "1s19_receptor_woH.mol2" 

Adding Hydrogens and Charge PDB structures are reported without hydrogens, so it is important that we add them to the receptor in order to gain accurate calculations for the interactions between the protein and ligand. This can also be done in Chimera by doing the following:

  Tools -> Structure Editing -> Add H -> Ok

We will also need to add charges to the receptor

  Tools -> Structure Editing -> Add Charge -> (have Amber ff14SB and AM1-BCC selected) -> Ok

Once this is done it is very important to check that the charges of the receptor match that of the experiments. Chimera adds the standard protonation states to the amino acids, so it's important to read the paper associated with the PDB file (see here) to make sure that there are no amino acids that are specifically protonated or deprotonated.

Once you have checked to make sure that the protonation states are okay, save this as a mol2 file:

  File -> Save Mol2 -> "1s19_receptor_dockprep.mol2"


Like the receptor, we will need to save the ligand as a separate mol2 file in order to perform the docking. For this model, the ligand is named as MC9 in Chimera.

To isolate the ligand:

  Select -> Residue -> MC9
  Select -> Invert (all models)
  Actions -> Atoms/Bonds -> Delete

We are now left with just the ligand as pictured below.

Figure 2. Ligand MC9 without Hydrogrens

We will save this as a mol2 file by:

  File -> Save Mol2 -> 1s19_lig_woH.mol2

Adding Hydrogens and Charges In the same steps as the receptor, we will add hydrogens and partial charges to the ligand. For the Hydrogens:

  Tools -> Structure editing -> add H

After doing so, the structure should look like the one below.

Figure 2. Ligand MC9 with Hydrogrens

Now we have to add the charges to the ligand. Remember to double check the crystal structure and validate the charge. In this case the charge is neutral (+/- 0), and Chimera was able to model it correctly. However this is not always the case and you will sometimes be required to manually change the charges.

Save this final structure as a mol2 file with the name "1s19_lig_dockprep.mol2"

Generating Receptor Surface and Spheres

Generating Surface

In Chimera we can generate a representation of the receptor that creates a negative image of the protein. This surface will guide the ligand to the active site of the receptor during docking. To do this, we are going to open the receptor without hydrogens in Chimera, 1s19_receptor_woH.mol2. Then in Chimera, do:

  Actions -> Surface -> Show
  Tools -> Structure Editing -> Write DMS -> "1s19_rec_surface.dms"

Move this to the "002.surface_spheres" directoy in the Bash Shell environment. THe following Figure is the depiction of the surface in Chimera.

Figure 4. Receptor surface

Generating Spheres

Creating Box and Grid

Generating Box

Generating Grid