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Open Access Research article

Benchmarks for flexible and rigid transcription factor-DNA docking

RyangGuk Kim1, Rosario I Corona1, Bo Hong2 and Jun-tao Guo1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Bioinformatics and Genomics, College of Computing and Informatics, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, North Carolina, USA

2 School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia, USA

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BMC Structural Biology 2011, 11:45  doi:10.1186/1472-6807-11-45

Published: 1 November 2011



Structural insight from transcription factor-DNA (TF-DNA) complexes is of paramount importance to our understanding of the affinity and specificity of TF-DNA interaction, and to the development of structure-based prediction of TF binding sites. Yet the majority of the TF-DNA complexes remain unsolved despite the considerable experimental efforts being made. Computational docking represents a promising alternative to bridge the gap. To facilitate the study of TF-DNA docking, carefully designed benchmarks are needed for performance evaluation and identification of the strengths and weaknesses of docking algorithms.


We constructed two benchmarks for flexible and rigid TF-DNA docking respectively using a unified non-redundant set of 38 test cases. The test cases encompass diverse fold families and are classified into easy and hard groups with respect to the degrees of difficulty in TF-DNA docking. The major parameters used to classify expected docking difficulty in flexible docking are the conformational differences between bound and unbound TFs and the interaction strength between TFs and DNA. For rigid docking in which the starting structure is a bound TF conformation, only interaction strength is considered.


We believe these benchmarks are important for the development of better interaction potentials and TF-DNA docking algorithms, which bears important implications to structure-based prediction of transcription factor binding sites and drug design.