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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Protein docking by Rotation-Based Uniform Sampling (RotBUS) with fast computing of intermolecular contact distance and residue desolvation

Albert Solernou and Juan Fernandez-Recio*

Author Affiliations

Life Sciences Department, Barcelona Supercomputing Center, Barcelona, Spain

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BMC Bioinformatics 2010, 11:352  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-11-352

Published: 28 June 2010



Protein-protein interactions are fundamental for the majority of cellular processes and their study is of enormous biotechnological and therapeutic interest. In recent years, a variety of computational approaches to the protein-protein docking problem have been reported, with encouraging results. Most of the currently available protein-protein docking algorithms are composed of two clearly defined parts: the sampling of the rotational and translational space of the interacting molecules, and the scoring and clustering of the resulting orientations. Although this kind of strategy has shown some of the most successful results in the CAPRI blind test webcite, more efforts need to be applied. Thus, the sampling protocol should generate a pool of conformations that include a sufficient number of near-native ones, while the scoring function should discriminate between near-native and non-near-native proposed conformations. On the other hand, protocols to efficiently include full flexibility on the protein structures are increasingly needed.


In these work we present new computational tools for protein-protein docking. We describe here the RotBUS (Rotation-Based Uniform Sampling) method to generate uniformly distributed sets of rigid-body docking poses, with a new fast calculation of the optimal contacting distance between molecules. We have tested the method on a standard benchmark of unbound structures and we can find near-native solutions in 100% of the cases. After applying a new fast filtering scheme based on residue-based desolvation, in combination with FTDock plus pyDock scoring, near-native solutions are found with rank ≤ 50 in 39% of the cases. Knowledge-based experimental restraints can be easily included to reduce computational times during sampling and improve success rates, and the method can be extended in the future to include flexibility of the side-chains.


This new sampling algorithm has the advantage of its high speed achieved by fast computing of the intermolecular distance based on a coarse representation of the interacting surfaces. In addition, a fast desolvation scoring permits the screening of millions of conformations at low computational cost, without compromising accuracy. The protocol presented here can be used as a framework to include restraints, flexibility and ensemble docking approaches.