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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Methodology article

Improving predicted protein loop structure ranking using a Pareto-optimality consensus method

Yaohang Li1*, Ionel Rata2, See-wing Chiu2 and Eric Jakobsson2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Computer Science, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA 23529, USA

2 Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology, Department of Biochemistry, UIUC Programs in Biophysics, Neuroscience, and Bioengineering, National Center for Supercomputing Applications, and Beckman Institute, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL 61801, USA

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BMC Structural Biology 2010, 10:22  doi:10.1186/1472-6807-10-22

Published: 20 July 2010



Accurate protein loop structure models are important to understand functions of many proteins. Identifying the native or near-native models by distinguishing them from the misfolded ones is a critical step in protein loop structure prediction.


We have developed a Pareto Optimal Consensus (POC) method, which is a consensus model ranking approach to integrate multiple knowledge- or physics-based scoring functions. The procedure of identifying the models of best quality in a model set includes: 1) identifying the models at the Pareto optimal front with respect to a set of scoring functions, and 2) ranking them based on the fuzzy dominance relationship to the rest of the models. We apply the POC method to a large number of decoy sets for loops of 4- to 12-residue in length using a functional space composed of several carefully-selected scoring functions: Rosetta, DOPE, DDFIRE, OPLS-AA, and a triplet backbone dihedral potential developed in our lab. Our computational results show that the sets of Pareto-optimal decoys, which are typically composed of ~20% or less of the overall decoys in a set, have a good coverage of the best or near-best decoys in more than 99% of the loop targets. Compared to the individual scoring function yielding best selection accuracy in the decoy sets, the POC method yields 23%, 37%, and 64% less false positives in distinguishing the native conformation, indentifying a near-native model (RMSD < 0.5A from the native) as top-ranked, and selecting at least one near-native model in the top-5-ranked models, respectively. Similar effectiveness of the POC method is also found in the decoy sets from membrane protein loops. Furthermore, the POC method outperforms the other popularly-used consensus strategies in model ranking, such as rank-by-number, rank-by-rank, rank-by-vote, and regression-based methods.


By integrating multiple knowledge- and physics-based scoring functions based on Pareto optimality and fuzzy dominance, the POC method is effective in distinguishing the best loop models from the other ones within a loop model set.