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Open Access Open Badges Methodology article

Quality assessment of protein model-structures based on structural and functional similarities

Bogumil M Konopka1, Jean-Christophe Nebel2 and Malgorzata Kotulska1*

Author affiliations

1 Institute of Biomedical Engineering and Instrumentation, Wroclaw University of Technology, Wybrzeze Wyspianskiego 27, 50-370, Wroclaw, Poland

2 Faculty of Science, Engineering and Computing, Kingston University, Kingston-upon-Thames, KT1 2EE, United Kingdom

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Citation and License

BMC Bioinformatics 2012, 13:242  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-13-242

Published: 21 September 2012



Experimental determination of protein 3D structures is expensive, time consuming and sometimes impossible. A gap between number of protein structures deposited in the World Wide Protein Data Bank and the number of sequenced proteins constantly broadens. Computational modeling is deemed to be one of the ways to deal with the problem. Although protein 3D structure prediction is a difficult task, many tools are available. These tools can model it from a sequence or partial structural information, e.g. contact maps. Consequently, biologists have the ability to generate automatically a putative 3D structure model of any protein. However, the main issue becomes evaluation of the model quality, which is one of the most important challenges of structural biology.


GOBA - Gene Ontology-Based Assessment is a novel Protein Model Quality Assessment Program. It estimates the compatibility between a model-structure and its expected function. GOBA is based on the assumption that a high quality model is expected to be structurally similar to proteins functionally similar to the prediction target. Whereas DALI is used to measure structure similarity, protein functional similarity is quantified using standardized and hierarchical description of proteins provided by Gene Ontology combined with Wang's algorithm for calculating semantic similarity. Two approaches are proposed to express the quality of protein model-structures. One is a single model quality assessment method, the other is its modification, which provides a relative measure of model quality. Exhaustive evaluation is performed on data sets of model-structures submitted to the CASP8 and CASP9 contests.


The validation shows that the method is able to discriminate between good and bad model-structures. The best of tested GOBA scores achieved 0.74 and 0.8 as a mean Pearson correlation to the observed quality of models in our CASP8 and CASP9-based validation sets. GOBA also obtained the best result for two targets of CASP8, and one of CASP9, compared to the contest participants. Consequently, GOBA offers a novel single model quality assessment program that addresses the practical needs of biologists. In conjunction with other Model Quality Assessment Programs (MQAPs), it would prove useful for the evaluation of single protein models.