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Open Access Research article

Reduced representation of protein structure: implications on efficiency and scope of detection of structural similarity

Zong Hong Zhang, Hwee Kuan Lee and Ivana Mihalek*

Author Affiliations

Bioinformatics Institute, A*STAR, 30 Biopolis Street, #07-01 Matrix, Singapore 138671

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BMC Bioinformatics 2010, 11:155  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-11-155

Published: 26 March 2010

Abstract

Background

Computational comparison of two protein structures is the starting point of many methods that build on existing knowledge, such as structure modeling (including modeling of protein complexes and conformational changes), molecular replacement, or annotation by structural similarity. In a commonly used strategy, significant effort is invested in matching two sets of atoms. In a complementary approach, a global descriptor is assigned to the overall structure, thus losing track of the substructures within.

Results

Using a small set of geometric features, we define a reduced representation of protein structure, together with an optimizing function for matching two representations, to provide a pre-filtering stage in a database search. We show that, in a straightforward implementation, the representation performs well in terms of resolution in the space of protein structures, and its ability to make new predictions.

Conclusions

Perhaps unexpectedly, a substantial discriminating power already exists at the level of main features of protein structure, such as directions of secondary structural elements, possibly constrained by their sequential order. This can be used toward efficient comparison of protein (sub)structures, allowing for various degrees of conformational flexibility within the compared pair, which in turn can be used for modeling by homology of protein structure and dynamics.