BACKGROUND: Protein-ligand docking programs are routinely used in structure-based drug design to find the optimal binding pose of a ligand in the protein's active site. These programs are also used to identify potential drug candidates by ranking large sets of compounds. As more accurate and efficient docking programs are always desirable, constant efforts focus on developing better docking algorithms or improving the scoring function. Recently, chaotic maps have emerged as a promising approach to improve the search behavior of optimization algorithms in terms of search diversity and convergence speed. However, their effectiveness on docking applications has not been explored. Herein, we integrated five popular chaotic maps-logistic, Singer, sinusoidal, tent, and Zaslavskii maps-into PSOVina[Formula: see text], a recent variant of the popular AutoDock Vina program with enhanced global and local search capabilities, and evaluated their performances in ligand pose prediction and virtual screening using four docking benchmark datasets and two virtual screening datasets.
RESULTS: Pose prediction experiments indicate that chaos-embedded algorithms outperform AutoDock Vina and PSOVina in ligand pose RMSD, success rate, and run time. In virtual screening experiments, Singer map-embedded PSOVina[Formula: see text] achieved a very significant five- to sixfold speedup with comparable screening performances to AutoDock Vina in terms of area under the receiver operating characteristic curve and enrichment factor. Therefore, our results suggest that chaos-embedded PSOVina methods might be a better option than AutoDock Vina for docking and virtual screening tasks. The success of chaotic maps in protein-ligand docking reveals their potential for improving optimization algorithms in other search problems, such as protein structure prediction and folding. The Singer map-embedded PSOVina[Formula: see text] which is named PSOVina-2.0 and all testing datasets are publicly available on https://cbbio.cis.umac.mo/software/psovina .