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J Comput Chem. 2008 Jul 30;29(10):1527-42. doi: 10.1002/jcc.20909.

The minimized dead-end elimination criterion and its application to protein redesign in a hybrid scoring and search algorithm for computing partition functions over molecular ensembles.

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Department of Computer Science, Duke University, Durham, NC, USA.


One of the main challenges for protein redesign is the efficient evaluation of a combinatorial number of candidate structures. The modeling of protein flexibility, typically by using a rotamer library of commonly-observed low-energy side-chain conformations, further increases the complexity of the redesign problem. A dominant algorithm for protein redesign is dead-end elimination (DEE), which prunes the majority of candidate conformations by eliminating rigid rotamers that provably are not part of the global minimum energy conformation (GMEC). The identified GMEC consists of rigid rotamers (i.e., rotamers that have not been energy-minimized) and is thus referred to as the rigid-GMEC. As a postprocessing step, the conformations that survive DEE may be energy-minimized. When energy minimization is performed after pruning with DEE, the combined protein design process becomes heuristic, and is no longer provably accurate: a conformation that is pruned using rigid-rotamer energies may subsequently minimize to a lower energy than the rigid-GMEC. That is, the rigid-GMEC and the conformation with the lowest energy among all energy-minimized conformations (the minimized-GMEC) are likely to be different. While the traditional DEE algorithm succeeds in not pruning rotamers that are part of the rigid-GMEC, it makes no guarantees regarding the identification of the minimized-GMEC. In this paper we derive a novel, provable, and efficient DEE-like algorithm, called minimized-DEE (MinDEE), that guarantees that rotamers belonging to the minimized-GMEC will not be pruned, while still pruning a combinatorial number of conformations. We show that MinDEE is useful not only in identifying the minimized-GMEC, but also as a filter in an ensemble-based scoring and search algorithm for protein redesign that exploits energy-minimized conformations. We compare our results both to our previous computational predictions of protein designs and to biological activity assays of predicted protein mutants. Our provable and efficient minimized-DEE algorithm is applicable in protein redesign, protein-ligand binding prediction, and computer-aided drug design.

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