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J Comput Biol. 2001;8(5):523-47.

Constrained global optimization for estimating molecular structure from atomic distances.

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  • 1Stanford Medical Informatics, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, 94305-5479, USA. gaw@smi.stanford.edu

Abstract

Finding optimal three-dimensional molecular configurations based on a limited amount of experimental and/or theoretical data requires efficient nonlinear optimization algorithms. Optimization methods must be able to find atomic configurations that are close to the absolute, or global, minimum error and also satisfy known physical constraints such as minimum separation distances between atoms (based on van der Waals interactions). The most difficult obstacles in these types of problems are that 1) using a limited amount of input data leads to many possible local optima and 2) introducing physical constraints, such as minimum separation distances, helps to limit the search space but often makes convergence to a global minimum more difficult. We introduce a constrained global optimization algorithm that is robust and efficient in yielding near-optimal three-dimensional configurations that are guaranteed to satisfy known separation constraints. The algorithm uses an atom-based approach that reduces the dimensionality and allows for tractable enforcement of constraints while maintaining good global convergence properties. We evaluate the new optimization algorithm using synthetic data from the yeast phenylalanine tRNA and several proteins, all with known crystal structure taken from the Protein Data Bank. We compare the results to commonly applied optimization methods, such as distance geometry, simulated annealing, continuation, and smoothing. We show that compared to other optimization approaches, our algorithm is able combine sparse input data with physical constraints in an efficient manner to yield structures with lower root mean squared deviation.

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