Can small drugs predict the intrinsic aqueous solubility of ‘beyond Rule of 5’ big drugs?

  • Alex Avdeef in-ADME Research
  • Manfred Kansy
Can small drugs predict the intrinsic aqueous solubility of ‘beyond Rule of 5’ big drugs?


The aim of the study was to explore to what extent small molecules (mostly from the Rule of 5 chemical space) can be used to predict the intrinsic aqueous solubility, S0, of big molecules from beyond the Rule of 5 (bRo5) space. It was demonstrated that the General Solubility Equation (GSE) and the Abraham Solvation Equation (ABSOLV) underpredict solubility in systematic but slightly ways. The Random Forest regression (RFR) method predicts solubility more accurately, albeit in the manner of a ‘black box.’ It was discovered that the GSE improves considerably in the case of big molecules when the coefficient of the log P term (octanol-water partition coefficient) in the equation is set to -0.4 instead of the traditional -1 value. The traditional GSE underpredicts solubility for molecules with experimental S0 < 50 µM. In contrast, the ABSOLV equation (trained with small molecules) underpredicts the solubility of big molecules in all cases tested. It was found that the errors in the ABSOLV-predicted solubilities of big molecules correlate linearly with the number of rotatable bonds, which suggests that flexibility may be an important factor in differentiating solubility of small from big molecules. Notably, most of the 31 big molecules considered have negative enthalpy of solution: these big molecules become less soluble with increasing temperature, which is compatible with ‘molecular chameleon’ behavior associated with intramolecular hydrogen bonding. The X‑ray structures of many of these molecules reveal void spaces in their crystal lattices large enough to accommodate many water molecules when such solids are in contact with aqueous media. The water sorbed into crystals suspended in aqueous solution may enhance solubility by way of intra-lattice solute-water interactions involving the numerous H‑bond acceptors in the big molecules studied. A ‘Solubility Enhancement–Big Molecules’ index was defined, which embodies many of the above findings.


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