Aqueous pKa Prediction for Tautomerizable Compounds Using Equilibrium Bond Lengths

Bethan Caine, Maddalena Bronzato, Torquil Fraser, Nathan J. Kidley, Christophe Dardonville, Paul Popelier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The accurate prediction of aqueous pKa values for tautomerizable compounds is a formidable task, even for the most established in silico tools. Empirical approaches often fall short due to a lack of pre-existing knowledge of dominant tautomeric forms. In a rigorous first-principles approach, calculations for low-energy tautomers must be performed, in protonated and deprotonated forms, often both in gas and solvent phases, thus representing a significant computational task. Here we report an alternative approach, predicting pKa values for herbicide/therapeutic derivatives of 1,3-cyclohexanedione and 1,3-cyclopentanedione to within just 0.24 units. A model, using a single ab initio bond length from one protonation state, is as accurate as other, more complex regression approaches using more input features, and outperforms the program Marvin. Our approach can be used for other tautomerizable species, to predict trends across congeneric series and to correct experimental pKa values.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCommunications Chemistry
Publication statusPublished - 12 Feb 2020


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