FlexE: Using elastic network models to compare models of protein structure

J Chem Theory Comput. 2012 Oct 9;8(10):3985-3991. doi: 10.1021/ct300148f.


It is often valuable to compare protein structures to determine how similar they are. Structure comparison methods such as RMSD and GDT-TS are based solely on fixed geometry and do not take into account the intrinsic flexibility or energy landscape of the protein. We propose a method, which we call FlexE, that is based on a simple elastic network model and uses the deformation energy as measure of the similarity between two structures. FlexE can distinguish biologically relevant conformational changes from random changes, while existing geometry-based methods cannot. Additionally, FlexE incorporates the concept of thermal energy, which provides a rational way to determine when two models are "the same". FlexE provides a unique measure of the similarity between protein structures that is complementary to existing methods.