The strength of weak interactions: Aromatic fluorine in drug design

Stephen G. DiMagno, Haoran Sun

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


Selective aromatic fluorine substitution can increase the affinity of a molecule for a macromolecular recognition site through non-covalent interactions. These effects are evaluated most accurately by direct comparison of binding affinities of selectively fluorinated compounds with their corresponding hydrocarbons. In cases where structural data confirm similar binding geometries for the fluorocarbon and hydrocarbon analogues, reliable estimates for the impact of fluorination upon arene-π X and C-F X interaction energies are possible. Existing studies show that fluorination's impact on any individual molecular interaction is quite modest. Upon binding to a protein receptor, cumulative fluorinated aromatic quadrupolar and C-F X dipolar interaction energies rarely differ from those the corresponding hydrocarbons by more than 1.3 kcal/mol, and most individual interactions appear to be in the 0.1-0.4 kcal/mol range. Similarly, non-ideal selective fluorination is rarely associated with a dramatic decrease in affinity, because the impact of weak repulsive interactions in the bound state is counterbalanced by increased lipophilicity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1473-1482
Number of pages10
JournalCurrent Topics in Medicinal Chemistry
Issue number14
StatePublished - Jul 2006


  • Arene-arenen interactions
  • C-C framework
  • Carbonic anhydrase inhibitors
  • Fluorination
  • Fluorobenzenes
  • Intermolecular interaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Drug Discovery


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