Protein structure prediction by threading methods: Evaluation of current techniques

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Abstract

This paper evaluates the results of a protein structure prediction contest. The predictions were made using threading procedures, which employ techniques for aligning sequences with 3D structures to select the correct fold of a given sequence from a set of alternatives. Nine different teams submitted 86 predictions, on a total of 21 target proteins with little or no sequence homology to proteins of known structure. The 3D structures of these proteins were newly determined by experimental methods, but not yet published or otherwise available to the predictors. The predictions, made from the amino acid sequence alone, thus represent a genuine test of the current performance of threading methods. Only a subset of all the predictions is evaluated here. It corresponds to the 44 predictions submitted for the 11 target proteins seen to adopt known folds. The predictions for the remaining 10 proteins were not analyzed, although weak similarities with known folds may also exist in these proteins. We find that threading methods are capable of identifying the correct fold in many cases, but not reliably enough as yet. Every team predicts correctly a different set of targets, with virtually all targets predicted correctly by at least one team. Also, common folds such as TIM barrels are recognized more readily than folds with only a few known examples. However, quite surprisingly, the quality of the sequence-structure alignments, corresponding to correctly recognized folds, is generally very poor, as judged by comparison with the corresponding 3D structure alignments. Thus, threading can presently not be relied upon to derive a detailed 3D model from the amino acid sequence. This raises a very intriguing question: how is fold recognition achieved? Our analysis suggests that it may be achieved because threading procedures maximize hydrophobic interactions in the protein core, and are reasonably good at recognizing local secondary structure. © 1995 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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