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Open Access Research article

Deciphering the shape and deformation of secondary structures through local conformation analysis

Julie Baussand and Anne-Claude Camproux*

Author Affiliations

Molécules Thérapeutiques in silico, UMRS-973, Université Paris-Diderot Paris-7,36, rue Hélène Brion, 75013 Paris, France

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BMC Structural Biology 2011, 11:9  doi:10.1186/1472-6807-11-9

Published: 1 February 2011

Abstract

Background

Protein deformation has been extensively analysed through global methods based on RMSD, torsion angles and Principal Components Analysis calculations. Here we use a local approach, able to distinguish among the different backbone conformations within loops, α-helices and β-strands, to address the question of secondary structures' shape variation within proteins and deformation at interface upon complexation.

Results

Using a structural alphabet, we translated the 3 D structures of large sets of protein-protein complexes into sequences of structural letters. The shape of the secondary structures can be assessed by the structural letters that modeled them in the structural sequences. The distribution analysis of the structural letters in the three protein compartments (surface, core and interface) reveals that secondary structures tend to adopt preferential conformations that differ among the compartments. The local description of secondary structures highlights that curved conformations are preferred on the surface while straight ones are preferred in the core. Interfaces display a mixture of local conformations either preferred in core or surface. The analysis of the structural letters transition occurring between protein-bound and unbound conformations shows that the deformation of secondary structure is tightly linked to the compartment preference of the local conformations.

Conclusion

The conformation of secondary structures can be further analysed and detailed thanks to a structural alphabet which allows a better description of protein surface, core and interface in terms of secondary structures' shape and deformation. Induced-fit modification tendencies described here should be valuable information to identify and characterize regions under strong structural constraints for functional reasons.