On the use of direct-coupling analysis with a reduced alphabet of amino acids combined with super-secondary structure motifs for protein fold prediction

NAR Genom Bioinform. 2021 Apr 22;3(2):lqab027. doi: 10.1093/nargab/lqab027. eCollection 2021 Jun.


Direct-coupling analysis (DCA) for studying the coevolution of residues in proteins has been widely used to predict the three-dimensional structure of a protein from its sequence. We present RADI/raDIMod, a variation of the original DCA algorithm that groups chemically equivalent residues combined with super-secondary structure motifs to model protein structures. Interestingly, the simplification produced by grouping amino acids into only two groups (polar and non-polar) is still representative of the physicochemical nature that characterizes the protein structure and it is in line with the role of hydrophobic forces in protein-folding funneling. As a result of a compressed alphabet, the number of sequences required for the multiple sequence alignment is reduced. The number of long-range contacts predicted is limited; therefore, our approach requires the use of neighboring sequence-positions. We use the prediction of secondary structure and motifs of super-secondary structures to predict local contacts. We use RADI and raDIMod, a fragment-based protein structure modelling, achieving near native conformations when the number of super-secondary motifs covers >30-50% of the sequence. Interestingly, although different contacts are predicted with different alphabets, they produce similar structures.