Detection and correction of underassigned rotational symmetry prior to structure deposition

Acta Crystallogr D Biol Crystallogr. 2010 May;66(Pt 5):503-13. doi: 10.1107/S0907444910001502. Epub 2010 Apr 21.


Up to 2% of X-ray structures in the Protein Data Bank (PDB) potentially fit into a higher symmetry space group. Redundant protein chains in these structures can be made compatible with exact crystallographic symmetry with minimal atomic movements that are smaller than the expected range of coordinate uncertainty. The incidence of problem cases is somewhat difficult to define precisely, as there is no clear line between underassigned symmetry, in which the subunit differences are unsupported by the data, and pseudosymmetry, in which the subunit differences rest on small but significant intensity differences in the diffraction pattern. To help catch symmetry-assignment problems in the future, it is useful to add a validation step that operates on the refined coordinates just prior to structure deposition. If redundant symmetry-related chains can be removed at this stage, the resulting model (in a higher symmetry space group) can readily serve as an isomorphous replacement starting point for re-refinement using re-indexed and re-integrated raw data. These ideas are implemented in new software tools available at

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Computational Biology / methods*
  • Crystallography, X-Ray / methods*
  • Databases, Protein
  • Models, Molecular
  • Protein Conformation
  • Proteins / chemistry*
  • Software


  • Proteins