Computational prediction of atomic structures of helical membrane proteins aided by EM maps.

Department of Molecular Biology, Department of Cell Biology, The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, CA, USA.
Biophysical Journal (Impact Factor: 3.67). 10/2007; 93(6):1950-9. DOI: 10.1529/biophysj.106.102137
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Integral membrane proteins pose a major challenge for protein-structure prediction because only approximately 100 high-resolution structures are available currently, thereby impeding the development of rules or empirical potentials to predict the packing of transmembrane alpha-helices. However, when an intermediate-resolution electron microscopy (EM) map is available, it can be used to provide restraints which, in combination with a suitable computational protocol, make structure prediction feasible. In this work we present such a protocol, which proceeds in three stages: 1), generation of an ensemble of alpha-helices by flexible fitting into each of the density rods in the low-resolution EM map, spanning a range of rotational angles around the main helical axes and translational shifts along the density rods; 2), fast optimization of side chains and scoring of the resulting conformations; and 3), refinement of the lowest-scoring conformations with internal coordinate mechanics, by optimizing the van der Waals, electrostatics, hydrogen bonding, torsional, and solvation energy contributions. In addition, our method implements a penalty term through a so-called tethering map, derived from the EM map, which restrains the positions of the alpha-helices. The protocol was validated on three test cases: GpA, KcsA, and MscL.

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