Continuous symmetry and chirality measures: approximate algorithms for large molecular structures

Gil Alon, Yuval Ben-Haim, Inbal Tuvi-Arad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Quantifying imperfect symmetry of molecules can help explore the sources, roles and extent of structural distortion. Based on the established methodology of continuous symmetry and chirality measures, we develop a set of three-dimensional molecular descriptors to estimate distortion of large structures. These three-dimensional geometrical descriptors quantify the gap between the desirable symmetry (or chirality) and the actual one. They are global parameters of the molecular geometry, intuitively defined, and have the ability to detect even minute structural changes of a given molecule across chemistry, including organic, inorganic, and biochemical systems. Application of these methods to large structures is challenging due to countless permutations that are involved in the symmetry operations and have to be accounted for. Our approach focuses on iteratively finding the approximate direction of the symmetry element in the three-dimensional space, and the relevant permutation. Major algorithmic improvements over previous versions are described, showing increased accuracy, reliability and structure preservation. The new algorithms are tested for three sets of molecular structures including pillar[5]arene complexes with Li+, C100 fullerenes, and large unit cells of metal organic frameworks. These developments complement our recent algorithms for calculating continuous symmetry and chirality measures for small molecules as well as protein homomers, and simplify the usage of the full set of measures for various research goals, in molecular modeling, QSAR and cheminformatics.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106
Pages (from-to)106
Number of pages1
JournalJournal of Cheminformatics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 9 Nov 2023

Bibliographical note

© 2023. The Author(s).


  • Chirality
  • Fibonacci lattice
  • Hungarian algorithm
  • Molecular descriptors
  • Supramolecular chemistry
  • Symmetry
  • Unit cells


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