A correlation between 19F NMR isotropic chemical shift and close intermolecular F⋅⋅⋅H-X contacts (with X=N or O) has been identified upon analysis of the X-ray crystal structures of fluorinated molecules listed in the Cambridge Structural Database (CSD). An optimal F⋅⋅⋅X distance involving primary and shielded secondary fluorine atoms in hydrogen-bond formation along with a correlation between F⋅⋅⋅H distance and F⋅⋅⋅H-X angle were also derived from the analysis. The hydrogen bonds involving fluorine are relevant, not only for the recognition mechanism and stabilization of a preferred conformation, but also for improvement in the permeability of the molecules, as shown with examples taken from a proprietary database. Results of an analysis of the small number of fluorine-containing natural products listed in the Protein Data Bank (PDB) appear to strengthen the derived correlation between 19F NMR isotropic chemical shift and interactions involving fluorine (also known as the "rule of shielding") and provides a hypothesis for the recognition mechanism and catalytic activity of specific enzymes. Novel chemical scaffolds, based on the rule of shielding, have been designed for recognizing distinct structural motifs present in proteins. It is envisaged that this approach could find useful applications in drug design for the efficient optimization of chemical fragments or promising compounds by increasing potency and selectivity against the desired biomolecular target.
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