Role of conformational sampling in computing mutation-induced changes in protein structure and stability

Proteins. 2011 Mar;79(3):830-8. doi: 10.1002/prot.22921. Epub 2010 Dec 3.


The prediction of changes in protein stability and structure resulting from single amino acid substitutions is both a fundamental test of macromolecular modeling methodology and an important current problem as high throughput sequencing reveals sequence polymorphisms at an increasing rate. In principle, given the structure of a wild-type protein and a point mutation whose effects are to be predicted, an accurate method should recapitulate both the structural changes and the change in the folding-free energy. Here, we explore the performance of protocols which sample an increasing diversity of conformations. We find that surprisingly similar performances in predicting changes in stability are achieved using protocols that involve very different amounts of conformational sampling, provided that the resolution of the force field is matched to the resolution of the sampling method. Methods involving backbone sampling can in some cases closely recapitulate the structural changes accompanying mutations but not surprisingly tend to do more harm than good in cases where structural changes are negligible. Analysis of the outliers in the stability change calculations suggests areas needing particular improvement; these include the balance between desolvation and the formation of favorable buried polar interactions, and unfolded state modeling.

MeSH terms

  • Models, Molecular
  • Mutation*
  • Protein Conformation*
  • Proteins / chemistry*
  • Proteins / genetics
  • Thermodynamics


  • Proteins