Rosetta FlexPepDock ab-initio: simultaneous folding, docking and refinement of peptides onto their receptors

PLoS One. 2011 Apr 29;6(4):e18934. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0018934.


Flexible peptides that fold upon binding to another protein molecule mediate a large number of regulatory interactions in the living cell and may provide highly specific recognition modules. We present Rosetta FlexPepDock ab-initio, a protocol for simultaneous docking and de-novo folding of peptides, starting from an approximate specification of the peptide binding site. Using the Rosetta fragments library and a coarse-grained structural representation of the peptide and the receptor, FlexPepDock ab-initio samples efficiently and simultaneously the space of possible peptide backbone conformations and rigid-body orientations over the receptor surface of a given binding site. The subsequent all-atom refinement of the coarse-grained models includes full side-chain modeling of both the receptor and the peptide, resulting in high-resolution models in which key side-chain interactions are recapitulated. The protocol was applied to a benchmark in which peptides were modeled over receptors in either their bound backbone conformations or in their free, unbound form. Near-native peptide conformations were identified in 18/26 of the bound cases and 7/14 of the unbound cases. The protocol performs well on peptides from various classes of secondary structures, including coiled peptides with unusual turns and kinks. The results presented here significantly extend the scope of state-of-the-art methods for high-resolution peptide modeling, which can now be applied to a wide variety of peptide-protein interactions where no prior information about the peptide backbone conformation is available, enabling detailed structure-based studies and manipulation of those interactions.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Binding Sites
  • Computer Simulation
  • Models, Molecular
  • Peptides / chemistry*
  • Peptides / metabolism
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Conformation
  • Protein Folding*
  • Protein Interaction Mapping / methods*
  • Protein Structure, Secondary
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Proteins / chemistry*
  • Proteins / metabolism


  • Peptides
  • Proteins