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PLoS One. 2012;7(9):e44967. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0044967. Epub 2012 Sep 28.

When the lowest energy does not induce native structures: parallel minimization of multi-energy values by hybridizing searching intelligences.

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  • 1School of Computer Science and Technology, Soochow University, Suzhou, China.



Protein structure prediction (PSP), which is usually modeled as a computational optimization problem, remains one of the biggest challenges in computational biology. PSP encounters two difficult obstacles: the inaccurate energy function problem and the searching problem. Even if the lowest energy has been luckily found by the searching procedure, the correct protein structures are not guaranteed to obtain.


A general parallel metaheuristic approach is presented to tackle the above two problems. Multi-energy functions are employed to simultaneously guide the parallel searching threads. Searching trajectories are in fact controlled by the parameters of heuristic algorithms. The parallel approach allows the parameters to be perturbed during the searching threads are running in parallel, while each thread is searching the lowest energy value determined by an individual energy function. By hybridizing the intelligences of parallel ant colonies and Monte Carlo Metropolis search, this paper demonstrates an implementation of our parallel approach for PSP. 16 classical instances were tested to show that the parallel approach is competitive for solving PSP problem.


This parallel approach combines various sources of both searching intelligences and energy functions, and thus predicts protein conformations with good quality jointly determined by all the parallel searching threads and energy functions. It provides a framework to combine different searching intelligence embedded in heuristic algorithms. It also constructs a container to hybridize different not-so-accurate objective functions which are usually derived from the domain expertise.

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