Molecular Gas-Phase Conformational Ensembles

Susanta Das, Kenneth M. Merz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Accurately determining the global minima of a molecular structure is important in diverse scientific fields, including drug design, materials science, and chemical synthesis. Conformational search engines serve as valuable tools for exploring the extensive conformational space of molecules and for identifying energetically favorable conformations. In this study, we present a comparison of Auto3D, CREST, Balloon, and ETKDG (from RDKit), which are freely available conformational search engines, to evaluate their effectiveness in locating global minima. These engines employ distinct methodologies, including machine learning (ML) potential-based, semiempirical, and force field-based approaches. To validate these methods, we propose the use of collisional cross-section (CCS) values obtained from ion mobility-mass spectrometry studies. We hypothesize that experimental gas-phase CCS values can provide experimental evidence that we likely have the global minimum for a given molecule. To facilitate this effort, we used our gas-phase conformation library (GPCL) which currently consists of the full ensembles of 20 small molecules and can be used by the community to validate any conformational search engine. Further members of the GPCL can be readily created for any molecule of interest using our standard workflow used to compute CCS values, expanding the ability of the GPCL in validation exercises. These innovative validation techniques enhance our understanding of the conformational landscape and provide valuable insights into the performance of conformational generation engines. Our findings shed light on the strengths and limitations of each search engine, enabling informed decisions for their utilization in various scientific fields, where accurate molecular structure determination is crucial for understanding biological activity and designing targeted interventions. By facilitating the identification of reliable conformations, this study significantly contributes to enhancing the efficiency and accuracy of molecular structure determination, with particular focus on metabolite structure elucidation. The findings of this research also provide valuable insights for developing effective workflows for predicting the structures of unknown compounds with high precision.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)749-760
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Chemical Information and Modeling
Issue number3
Early online date11 Jan 2024
StatePublished - 12 Feb 2024
Externally publishedYes

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© 2024 American Chemical Society.


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