Metabolism of xenobiotics remains a central challenge for the discovery and development of drugs, cosmetics, nutritional supplements, and agrochemicals. Metabolic transformations are frequently related to the incidence of toxic effects that may result from the emergence of reactive species, the systemic accumulation of metabolites, or by induction of metabolic pathways. Experimental investigation of the metabolism of small organic molecules is particularly resource demanding; hence, computational methods are of considerable interest to complement experimental approaches. This review provides a broad overview of structure- and ligand-based computational methods for the prediction of xenobiotic metabolism. Current computational approaches to address xenobiotic metabolism are discussed from three major perspectives: (i) prediction of sites of metabolism (SOMs), (ii) elucidation of potential metabolites and their chemical structures, and (iii) prediction of direct and indirect effects of xenobiotics on metabolizing enzymes, where the focus is on the cytochrome P450 (CYP) superfamily of enzymes, the cardinal xenobiotics metabolizing enzymes. For each of these domains, a variety of approaches and their applications are systematically reviewed, including expert systems, data mining approaches, quantitative structure-activity relationships (QSARs), and machine learning-based methods, pharmacophore-based algorithms, shape-focused techniques, molecular interaction fields (MIFs), reactivity-focused techniques, protein-ligand docking, molecular dynamics (MD) simulations, and combinations of methods. Predictive metabolism is a developing area, and there is still enormous potential for improvement. However, it is clear that the combination of rapidly increasing amounts of available ligand- and structure-related experimental data (in particular, quantitative data) with novel and diverse simulation and modeling approaches is accelerating the development of effective tools for prediction of in vivo metabolism, which is reflected by the diverse and comprehensive data sources and methods for metabolism prediction reviewed here. This review attempts to survey the range and scope of computational methods applied to metabolism prediction and also to compare and contrast their applicability and performance.
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