Open Access Research article

Analysis of X-ray Structures of Matrix Metalloproteinases via Chaotic Map Clustering

Ilenia Giangreco1, Orazio Nicolotti1*, Angelo Carotti1, Francesco De Carlo2, Gianfranco Gargano2 and Roberto Bellotti2

Author Affiliations

1 Dipartimento Farmaco-Chimico, University of Bari, via Orabona 4, 70125 Bari, Italy

2 Dipartimento Interateneo di Fisica, University of Bari, via Amendola 173, 70125 Bari, Italy

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BMC Bioinformatics 2010, 11:500  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-11-500

Published: 8 October 2010



Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are well-known biological targets implicated in tumour progression, homeostatic regulation, innate immunity, impaired delivery of pro-apoptotic ligands, and the release and cleavage of cell-surface receptors. With this in mind, the perception of the intimate relationships among diverse MMPs could be a solid basis for accelerated learning in designing new selective MMP inhibitors. In this regard, decrypting the latent molecular reasons in order to elucidate similarity among MMPs is a key challenge.


We describe a pairwise variant of the non-parametric chaotic map clustering (CMC) algorithm and its application to 104 X-ray MMP structures. In this analysis electrostatic potentials are computed and used as input for the CMC algorithm. It was shown that differences between proteins reflect genuine variation of their electrostatic potentials. In addition, the analysis has been also extended to analyze the protein primary structures and the molecular shapes of the MMP co-crystallised ligands.


The CMC algorithm was shown to be a valuable tool in knowledge acquisition and transfer from MMP structures. Based on the variation of electrostatic potentials, CMC was successful in analysing the MMP target family landscape and different subsites. The first investigation resulted in rational figure interpretation of both domain organization as well as of substrate specificity classifications. The second made it possible to distinguish the MMP classes, demonstrating the high specificity of the S1' pocket, to detect both the occurrence of punctual mutations of ionisable residues and different side-chain conformations that likely account for induced-fit phenomena. In addition, CMC demonstrated a potential comparable to the most popular UPGMA (Unweighted Pair Group Method with Arithmetic mean) method that, at present, represents a standard clustering bioinformatics approach. Interestingly, CMC and UPGMA resulted in closely comparable outcomes, but often CMC produced more informative and more easy interpretable dendrograms. Finally, CMC was successful for standard pairwise analysis (i.e., Smith-Waterman algorithm) of protein sequences and was used to convincingly explain the complementarity existing between the molecular shapes of the co-crystallised ligand molecules and the accessible MMP void volumes.