Deviations from standard atomic volumes as a quality measure for protein crystal structures

J Mol Biol. 1996 Nov 22;264(1):121-36. doi: 10.1006/jmbi.1996.0628.


Standard ranges of atomic and residue volumes are computed in 64 highly resolved and well-refined protein crystal structures using the classical Voronoi procedure. Deviations of the atomic volumes from the standard values, evaluated as the volume Z-scores, are used to assess the quality of protein crystal structures. To score a structure globally, we compute the volume Z-score root mean square deviation (Z-score rms), which measures the average magnitude of the volume irregularities in the structure. We find that the Z-score rms decreases as the resolution and R-factor improve, consistent with the fact that these improvements generally reflect more accurate models. From the Z-score rms distribution in structures with a given resolution or R-factor, we determine the normal limits in Z-score rms values for structures solved at that resolution or R-factor. Structures whose Z-score rms exceeds these limits are considered as outliers. Such structures also exhibit unusual stereochemistry, as revealed by other analyses. Absolute Z-scores of individual atoms are used to identify problems in specific regions within a protein model. These Z-scores correlate fairly well with the atomic B-factors, and atoms having absolute Z-scores > 3, occur at or near regions in the model where programs such as PROCHECK identify unusual stereochemistry. Atomic volumes, themselves not directly restrained in crystallographic refinement, can thus provide an independent, rather sensitive, measure of the quality of a protein structure. The volume-based structure validation procedures are implemented in the program PROVE (PROtein Volume Evaluation), which is accessible through the World Wide Web.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Crystallization
  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • Cytochrome c Group / chemistry
  • Cytochrome c Group / genetics
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Molecular Structure
  • Phosphoglycerate Mutase / chemistry
  • Phosphoglycerate Mutase / genetics
  • Protein Structure, Secondary
  • Proteins / chemistry*
  • Software


  • Cytochrome c Group
  • Proteins
  • cytochrome c(3)
  • Phosphoglycerate Mutase