The first protein structures revealed a complex web of weak interactions stabilising the three-dimensional shape of the molecule. Small molecule ligands were then found to exploit these same weak binding events to modulate protein function or act as substrates in enzymatic reactions. As the understanding of ligand–protein binding grew, it became possible to firstly predict how and where a particular small molecule might interact with a protein, and then to identify putative ligands for a specific protein site. Computer-aided drug discovery, based on the structure of target proteins, is now a well-established technique that has produced several marketed drugs. We present here an overview of the various methodologies being used for structure-based computer-aided drug discovery and comment on possible future developments in the field.

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