How well can the accuracy of comparative protein structure models be predicted?

Protein Sci. 2008 Nov;17(11):1881-93. doi: 10.1110/ps.036061.108. Epub 2008 Oct 1.


Comparative structure models are available for two orders of magnitude more protein sequences than are experimentally determined structures. These models, however, suffer from two limitations that experimentally determined structures do not: They frequently contain significant errors, and their accuracy cannot be readily assessed. We have addressed the latter limitation by developing a protocol optimized specifically for predicting the Calpha root-mean-squared deviation (RMSD) and native overlap (NO3.5A) errors of a model in the absence of its native structure. In contrast to most traditional assessment scores that merely predict one model is more accurate than others, this approach quantifies the error in an absolute sense, thus helping to determine whether or not the model is suitable for intended applications. The assessment relies on a model-specific scoring function constructed by a support vector machine. This regression optimizes the weights of up to nine features, including various sequence similarity measures and statistical potentials, extracted from a tailored training set of models unique to the model being assessed: If possible, we use similarly sized models with the same fold; otherwise, we use similarly sized models with the same secondary structure composition. This protocol predicts the RMSD and NO3.5A errors for a diverse set of 580,317 comparative models of 6174 sequences with correlation coefficients (r) of 0.84 and 0.86, respectively, to the actual errors. This scoring function achieves the best correlation compared to 13 other tested assessment criteria that achieved correlations ranging from 0.35 to 0.71.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Computational Biology / methods*
  • Databases, Protein
  • Models, Molecular*
  • Protein Folding
  • Protein Structure, Secondary
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Proteins / chemistry*
  • Sequence Analysis, Protein
  • Software


  • Proteins