Calibur: a tool for clustering large numbers of protein decoys

BMC Bioinformatics. 2010 Jan 13;11:25. doi: 10.1186/1471-2105-11-25.


Background: Ab initio protein structure prediction methods generate numerous structural candidates, which are referred to as decoys. The decoy with the most number of neighbors of up to a threshold distance is typically identified as the most representative decoy. However, the clustering of decoys needed for this criterion involves computations with runtimes that are at best quadratic in the number of decoys. As a result currently there is no tool that is designed to exactly cluster very large numbers of decoys, thus creating a bottleneck in the analysis.

Results: Using three strategies aimed at enhancing performance (proximate decoys organization, preliminary screening via lower and upper bounds, outliers filtering) we designed and implemented a software tool for clustering decoys called Calibur. We show empirical results indicating the effectiveness of each of the strategies employed. The strategies are further fine-tuned according to their effectiveness.Calibur demonstrated the ability to scale well with respect to increases in the number of decoys. For a sample size of approximately 30 thousand decoys, Calibur completed the analysis in one third of the time required when the strategies are not used.For practical use Calibur is able to automatically discover from the input decoys a suitable threshold distance for clustering. Several methods for this discovery are implemented in Calibur, where by default a very fast one is used. Using the default method Calibur reported relatively good decoys in our tests.

Conclusions: Calibur's ability to handle very large protein decoy sets makes it a useful tool for clustering decoys in ab initio protein structure prediction. As the number of decoys generated in these methods increases, we believe Calibur will come in important for progress in the field.

MeSH terms

  • Cluster Analysis*
  • Computational Biology / methods*
  • Databases, Protein
  • Protein Conformation*
  • Protein Folding
  • Proteins / chemistry*
  • Sequence Analysis, Protein
  • Software*


  • Proteins