Hybrid Methods for Modeling Protein Structures Using Molecular Dynamics Simulations and Small-Angle X-Ray Scattering Data

Adv Exp Med Biol. 2018;1105:237-258. doi: 10.1007/978-981-13-2200-6_15.


Small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) is an efficient experimental tool to measure the overall shape of macromolecular structures in solution. However, due to the low resolution of SAXS data, high-resolution data obtained from X-ray crystallography or NMR and computational methods such as molecular dynamics (MD) simulations are complementary to SAXS data for understanding protein functions based on their structures at atomic resolution. Because MD simulations provide a physicochemically proper structural ensemble for flexible proteins in solution and a precise description of solvent effects, the hybrid analysis of SAXS and MD simulations is a promising method to estimate reasonable solution structures and structural ensembles in solution. Here, we review typical and useful in silico methods for modeling three dimensional protein structures, calculating theoretical SAXS profiles, and analyzing ensemble structures consistent with experimental SAXS profiles. We also review two examples of the hybrid analysis, termed MD-SAXS method in which MD simulations are carried out without any knowledge of experimental SAXS data, and the experimental SAXS data are used only to assess the consistency of the solution model from MD simulations with those observed in experiments. One example is an investigation of the intrinsic dynamics of EcoO109I using the computational method to obtain a theoretical profile from the trajectory of an MD simulation. The other example is a structural investigation of the vitamin D receptor ligand-binding domain using snapshots generated by MD simulations and assessment of the snapshots by experimental SAXS data.

Keywords: Coarse-grained model; Endonuclease; MD-SAXS; Molecular dynamics simulation; Small-angle X-ray scattering; Solution structure; Vitamin D receptor.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Models, Molecular*
  • Molecular Dynamics Simulation*
  • Protein Conformation*
  • Proteins / chemistry*
  • Scattering, Small Angle*
  • X-Ray Diffraction*


  • Proteins