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Open Access Highly Accessed Methodology article

Fr-TM-align: a new protein structural alignment method based on fragment alignments and the TM-score

Shashi Bhushan Pandit and Jeffrey Skolnick*

Author Affiliations

Center for the Study of Systems Biology, School of Biology, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, USA

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BMC Bioinformatics 2008, 9:531  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-9-531

Published: 12 December 2008



Protein tertiary structure comparisons are employed in various fields of contemporary structural biology. Most structure comparison methods involve generation of an initial seed alignment, which is extended and/or refined to provide the best structural superposition between a pair of protein structures as assessed by a structure comparison metric. One such metric, the TM-score, was recently introduced to provide a combined structure quality measure of the coordinate root mean square deviation between a pair of structures and coverage. Using the TM-score, the TM-align structure alignment algorithm was developed that was often found to have better accuracy and coverage than the most commonly used structural alignment programs; however, there were a number of situations when this was not true.


To further improve structure alignment quality, the Fr-TM-align algorithm has been developed where aligned fragment pairs are used to generate the initial seed alignments that are then refined using dynamic programming to maximize the TM-score. For the assessment of the structural alignment quality from Fr-TM-align in comparison to other programs such as CE and TM-align, we examined various alignment quality assessment scores such as PSI and TM-score. The assessment showed that the structural alignment quality from Fr-TM-align is better in comparison to both CE and TM-align. On average, the structural alignments generated using Fr-TM-align have a higher TM-score (~9%) and coverage (~7%) in comparison to those generated by TM-align. Fr-TM-align uses an exhaustive procedure to generate initial seed alignments. Hence, the algorithm is computationally more expensive than TM-align.


Fr-TM-align, a new algorithm that employs fragment alignment and assembly provides better structural alignments in comparison to TM-align. The source code and executables of Fr-TM-align are freely downloadable at: webcite.