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Structure. 2007 Jan;15(1):7-19.

Identification of secondary structure elements in intermediate-resolution density maps.

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National Center for Macromolecular Imaging, Verna and Marrs McLean Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX 77030, USA.


An increasing number of structural studies of large macromolecular complexes, both in X-ray crystallography and cryo-electron microscopy, have resulted in intermediate-resolution (5-10 A) density maps. Despite being limited in resolution, significant structural and functional information may be extractable from these maps. To aid in the analysis and annotation of these complexes, we have developed SSEhunter, a tool for the quantitative detection of alpha helices and beta sheets. Based on density skeletonization, local geometry calculations, and a template-based search, SSEhunter has been tested and validated on a variety of simulated and authentic subnanometer-resolution density maps. The result is a robust, user-friendly approach that allows users to quickly visualize, assess, and annotate intermediate-resolution density maps. Beyond secondary structure element identification, the skeletonization algorithm in SSEhunter provides secondary structure topology, which is potentially useful in leading to structural models of individual molecular components directly from the density.

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