Improving homology modeling from low-sequence identity templates in Rosetta: A case study in GPCRs

PLoS Comput Biol. 2020 Oct 28;16(10):e1007597. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1007597. eCollection 2020 Oct.


As sequencing methodologies continue to advance, the availability of protein sequences far outpaces the ability of structure determination. Homology modeling is used to bridge this gap but relies on high-identity templates for accurate model building. G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) represent a significant target class for pharmaceutical therapies in which homology modeling could fill the knowledge gap for structure-based drug design. To date, only about 17% of druggable GPCRs have had their structures characterized at atomic resolution. However, modeling of the remaining 83% is hindered by the low sequence identity between receptors. Here we test key inputs in the model building process using GPCRs as a focus to improve the pipeline in two critical ways: Firstly, we use a blended sequence- and structure-based alignment that accounts for structure conservation in loop regions. Secondly, by merging multiple template structures into one comparative model, the best possible template for every region of a target can be used expanding the conformational space sampled in a meaningful way. This optimization allows for accurate modeling of receptors using templates as low as 20% sequence identity, which accounts for nearly the entire druggable space of GPCRs. A model database of all non-odorant GPCRs is made available at Additionally, all protocols are made available with insights into modifications that may improve accuracy at new targets.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Computational Biology / methods*
  • Humans
  • Models, Molecular*
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled* / chemistry
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled* / genetics
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Sequence Analysis, Protein
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid*
  • Software


  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled