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J Mol Biol. 2004 Jun 4;339(3):591-605.

A hidden markov model derived structural alphabet for proteins.

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  • 1Equipe de Bioinformatique Génomique et Moléculaire, INSERM E0436, Université Paris 7, case 7113, 2 place Jussieu, 75251 Paris, France. camproux@ebgm.jussieu.fr


Understanding and predicting protein structures depends on the complexity and the accuracy of the models used to represent them. We have set up a hidden Markov model that discretizes protein backbone conformation as series of overlapping fragments (states) of four residues length. This approach learns simultaneously the geometry of the states and their connections. We obtain, using a statistical criterion, an optimal systematic decomposition of the conformational variability of the protein peptidic chain in 27 states with strong connection logic. This result is stable over different protein sets. Our model fits well the previous knowledge related to protein architecture organisation and seems able to grab some subtle details of protein organisation, such as helix sub-level organisation schemes. Taking into account the dependence between the states results in a description of local protein structure of low complexity. On an average, the model makes use of only 8.3 states among 27 to describe each position of a protein structure. Although we use short fragments, the learning process on entire protein conformations captures the logic of the assembly on a larger scale. Using such a model, the structure of proteins can be reconstructed with an average accuracy close to 1.1A root-mean-square deviation and for a complexity of only 3. Finally, we also observe that sequence specificity increases with the number of states of the structural alphabet. Such models can constitute a very relevant approach to the analysis of protein architecture in particular for protein structure prediction.

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