Modeling protein quaternary structure of homo- and hetero-oligomers beyond binary interactions by homology

Sci Rep. 2017 Sep 5;7(1):10480. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-09654-8.


Cellular processes often depend on interactions between proteins and the formation of macromolecular complexes. The impairment of such interactions can lead to deregulation of pathways resulting in disease states, and it is hence crucial to gain insights into the nature of macromolecular assemblies. Detailed structural knowledge about complexes and protein-protein interactions is growing, but experimentally determined three-dimensional multimeric assemblies are outnumbered by complexes supported by non-structural experimental evidence. Here, we aim to fill this gap by modeling multimeric structures by homology, only using amino acid sequences to infer the stoichiometry and the overall structure of the assembly. We ask which properties of proteins within a family can assist in the prediction of correct quaternary structure. Specifically, we introduce a description of protein-protein interface conservation as a function of evolutionary distance to reduce the noise in deep multiple sequence alignments. We also define a distance measure to structurally compare homologous multimeric protein complexes. This allows us to hierarchically cluster protein structures and quantify the diversity of alternative biological assemblies known today. We find that a combination of conservation scores, structural clustering, and classical interface descriptors, can improve the selection of homologous protein templates leading to reliable models of protein complexes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Fructose-Bisphosphate Aldolase / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Conformation
  • Protein Multimerization*
  • Sequence Analysis, Protein / methods*
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid


  • Fructose-Bisphosphate Aldolase