Protein structure determination by exhaustive search of Protein Data Bank derived databases

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Dec 14;107(50):21476-81. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1012095107. Epub 2010 Nov 22.


Parallel sequence and structure alignment tools have become ubiquitous and invaluable at all levels in the study of biological systems. We demonstrate the application and utility of this same parallel search paradigm to the process of protein structure determination, benefitting from the large and growing corpus of known structures. Such searches were previously computationally intractable. Through the method of Wide Search Molecular Replacement, developed here, they can be completed in a few hours with the aide of national-scale federated cyberinfrastructure. By dramatically expanding the range of models considered for structure determination, we show that small (less than 12% structural coverage) and low sequence identity (less than 20% identity) template structures can be identified through multidimensional template scoring metrics and used for structure determination. Many new macromolecular complexes can benefit significantly from such a technique due to the lack of known homologous protein folds or sequences. We demonstrate the effectiveness of the method by determining the structure of a full-length p97 homologue from Trichoplusia ni. Example cases with the MHC/T-cell receptor complex and the EmoB protein provide systematic estimates of minimum sequence identity, structure coverage, and structural similarity required for this method to succeed. We describe how this structure-search approach and other novel computationally intensive workflows are made tractable through integration with the US national computational cyberinfrastructure, allowing, for example, rapid processing of the entire Structural Classification of Proteins protein fragment database.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Computational Biology / methods*
  • Databases, Protein*
  • Mice
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Protein Conformation*
  • Proteins / chemistry*
  • Proteins / genetics
  • Sequence Alignment / methods
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid


  • Proteins