Mapping between databases of compounds and protein targets

Sorel Muresan, Markus Sitzmann, Christopher Southan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Databases that provide links between bioactive compounds and their protein targets are increasingly important in drug discovery and chemical biology. They join the expanding universes of cheminformatics via chemical structures on the one hand and bioinformatics via sequences on the other. However, it is difficult to assess the relative utility of databases without the explicit comparison of content. We have exemplified an approach to this by comparing resources that each has a different focus on bioactive chemistry (ChEMBL, DrugBank, Human Metabolome Database, and Therapeutic Target Database) both at the chemical structure and protein levels. We compared the compound sets at different representational stringencies using NCI/CADD Structure Identifiers. The overlap and uniqueness in chemical content can be broadly interpreted in the context of different data capture strategies. However, we recorded apparent anomalies, such as many compounds-in-common between the metabolite and drug databases. We also compared the content of sequences mapped to the compounds via their UniProt protein identifiers. While these were also generally interpretable in the context of individual databases we discerned differences in coverage and the types of supporting data used. For example, the target concept is applied differently between DrugBank and the Therapeutic Target Database. In ChEMBL it encompasses a broader range of mappings from chemical biology and species orthologue cross-screening in addition to drug targets per se. Our analysis should assist users not only in exploiting the synergies between these four high-value resources but also in assessing the utility of other databases at the interface of chemistry and biology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-64
Number of pages20
JournalMethods in Molecular Biology
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Computational Biology
  • Databases, Chemical
  • Databases, Protein
  • Humans
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


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