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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2002 Jun 25;99(13):8620-5.

How to describe protein motion without amino acid sequence and atomic coordinates.

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Graduate Program of Structural and Computational Biology and Molecular Biophysics, Baylor College of Medicine, One Baylor Plaza, BCM-125, Houston, TX 77030, USA.


This paper reports a computational method, the quantized elastic deformational model, that can reliably describe the conformational flexibility of a protein in the absence of the amino acid sequence and atomic coordinates. The essence of this method lies in the fact that, in modeling the functionally important conformational changes such as domain movements, it is possible to abandon the traditional concepts of protein structure (bonds, angles, dihedrals, etc.) and treat the protein as an elastic object. The shape and mass distribution of the object are described by the electron density maps, at various resolutions, from methods such as x-ray diffraction or cryo-electron microscopy. The amplitudes and directionality of the elastic deformational modes of a protein, whose patterns match the biologically relevant conformational changes, can then be derived solely based on the electron density map. The method yields an accurate description of protein dynamics over a wide range of resolutions even as low as 15-20 A at which there is nearly no visually distinguishable internal structures. Therefore, this method dramatically enhances the capability of studying protein motions in structural biology. It is also expected to have ample applications in related fields such as bioinformatics, structural genomics, and proteomics, in which one's ability to extract functional information from the not-so-well-defined structural models is vitally important.

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