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1.  Modeling of loops in proteins: a multi-method approach 
Template-target sequence alignment and loop modeling are key components of protein comparative modeling. Short loops can be predicted with high accuracy using structural fragments from other, not necessairly homologous proteins, or by various minimization methods. For longer loops multiscale approaches employing coarse-grained de novo modeling techniques should be more effective.
For a representative set of protein structures of various structural classes test predictions of loop regions have been performed using MODELLER, ROSETTA, and a CABS coarse-grained de novo modeling tool. Loops of various length, from 4 to 25 residues, were modeled assuming an ideal target-template alignment of the remaining portions of the protein. It has been shown that classical modeling with MODELLER is usually better for short loops, while coarse-grained de novo modeling is more effective for longer loops. Even very long missing fragments in protein structures could be effectively modeled. Resolution of such models is usually on the level 2-6 Å, which could be sufficient for guiding protein engineering. Further improvement of modeling accuracy could be achieved by the combination of different methods. In particular, we used 10 top ranked models from sets of 500 models generated by MODELLER as multiple templates for CABS modeling. On average, the resulting molecular models were better than the models from individual methods.
Accuracy of protein modeling, as demonstrated for the problem of loop modeling, could be improved by the combinations of different modeling techniques.
PMCID: PMC2837870  PMID: 20149252
2.  Contact prediction in protein modeling: Scoring, folding and refinement of coarse-grained models 
Several different methods for contact prediction succeeded within the Sixth Critical Assessment of Techniques for Protein Structure Prediction (CASP6). The most relevant were non-local contact predictions for targets from the most difficult categories: fold recognition-analogy and new fold. Such contacts could provide valuable structural information in case a template structure cannot be found in the PDB.
We described comprehensive tests of the effectiveness of contact data in various aspects of de novo modeling with CABS, an algorithm which was used successfully in CASP6 by the Kolinski-Bujnicki group. We used the predicted contacts in a simple scoring function for the post-simulation ranking of protein models and as a soft bias in the folding simulations and in the fold-refinement procedure. The latter approach turned out to be the most successful. The CABS force field used in the Replica Exchange Monte Carlo simulations cooperated with the true contacts and discriminated the false ones, which resulted in an improvement of the majority of Kolinski-Bujnicki's protein models. In the modeling we tested different sets of predicted contact data submitted to the CASP6 server. According to our results, the best performing were the contacts with the accuracy balanced with the coverage, obtained either from the best two predictors only or by a consensus from as many predictors as possible.
Our tests have shown that theoretically predicted contacts can be very beneficial for protein structure prediction. Depending on the protein modeling method, a contact data set applied should be prepared with differently balanced coverage and accuracy of predicted contacts. Namely, high coverage of contact data is important for the model ranking and high accuracy for the folding simulations.
PMCID: PMC2527566  PMID: 18694501
3.  Type II restriction endonuclease R.Eco29kI is a member of the GIY-YIG nuclease superfamily 
The majority of experimentally determined crystal structures of Type II restriction endonucleases (REases) exhibit a common PD-(D/E)XK fold. Crystal structures have been also determined for single representatives of two other folds: PLD (R.BfiI) and half-pipe (R.PabI), and bioinformatics analyses supported by mutagenesis suggested that some REases belong to the HNH fold. Our previous bioinformatic analysis suggested that REase R.Eco29kI shares sequence similarities with one more unrelated nuclease superfamily, GIY-YIG, however so far no experimental data were available to support this prediction. The determination of a crystal structure of the GIY-YIG domain of homing endonuclease I-TevI provided a template for modeling of R.Eco29kI and prompted us to validate the model experimentally.
Using protein fold-recognition methods we generated a new alignment between R.Eco29kI and I-TevI, which suggested a reassignment of one of the putative catalytic residues. A theoretical model of R.Eco29kI was constructed to illustrate its predicted three-dimensional fold and organization of the active site, comprising amino acid residues Y49, Y76, R104, H108, E142, and N154. A series of mutants was constructed to generate amino acid substitutions of selected residues (Y49A, R104A, H108F, E142A and N154L) and the mutant proteins were examined for their ability to bind the DNA containing the Eco29kI site 5'-CCGCGG-3' and to catalyze the cleavage reaction. Experimental data reveal that residues Y49, R104, E142, H108, and N154 are important for the nuclease activity of R.Eco29kI, while H108 and N154 are also important for specific DNA binding by this enzyme.
Substitutions of residues Y49, R104, H108, E142 and N154 predicted by the model to be a part of the active site lead to mutant proteins with strong defects in the REase activity. These results are in very good agreement with the structural model presented in this work and with our prediction that R.Eco29kI belongs to the GIY-YIG superfamily of nucleases. Our study provides the first experimental evidence for a Type IIP REase that does not belong to the PD-(D/E)XK or HNH superfamilies of nucleases, and is instead a member of the unrelated GIY-YIG superfamily.
PMCID: PMC1952068  PMID: 17626614
4.  Towards the high-resolution protein structure prediction. Fast refinement of reduced models with all-atom force field 
Although experimental methods for determining protein structure are providing high resolution structures, they cannot keep the pace at which amino acid sequences are resolved on the scale of entire genomes. For a considerable fraction of proteins whose structures will not be determined experimentally, computational methods can provide valuable information. The value of structural models in biological research depends critically on their quality. Development of high-accuracy computational methods that reliably generate near-experimental quality structural models is an important, unsolved problem in the protein structure modeling.
Large sets of structural decoys have been generated using reduced conformational space protein modeling tool CABS. Subsequently, the reduced models were subject to all-atom reconstruction. Then, the resulting detailed models were energy-minimized using state-of-the-art all-atom force field, assuming fixed positions of the alpha carbons. It has been shown that a very short minimization leads to the proper ranking of the quality of the models (distance from the native structure), when the all-atom energy is used as the ranking criterion. Additionally, we performed test on medium and low accuracy decoys built via classical methods of comparative modeling. The test placed our model evaluation procedure among the state-of-the-art protein model assessment methods.
These test computations show that a large scale high resolution protein structure prediction is possible, not only for small but also for large protein domains, and that it should be based on a hierarchical approach to the modeling protocol. We employed Molecular Mechanics with fixed alpha carbons to rank-order the all-atom models built on the scaffolds of the reduced models. Our tests show that a physic-based approach, usually considered computationally too demanding for large-scale applications, can be effectively used in such studies.
PMCID: PMC1933428  PMID: 17603876

Results 1-4 (4)