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PLoS Comput Biol. 2009 Jul;5(7):e1000440. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000440. Epub 2009 Jul 17.

PoreWalker: a novel tool for the identification and characterization of channels in transmembrane proteins from their three-dimensional structure.

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EMBL/EBI, The Wellcome Trust Genome Campus, Cambridge, United Kingdom.


Transmembrane channel proteins play pivotal roles in maintaining the homeostasis and responsiveness of cells and the cross-membrane electrochemical gradient by mediating the transport of ions and molecules through biological membranes. Therefore, computational methods which, given a set of 3D coordinates, can automatically identify and describe channels in transmembrane proteins are key tools to provide insights into how they function.Herein we present PoreWalker, a fully automated method, which detects and fully characterises channels in transmembrane proteins from their 3D structures. A stepwise procedure is followed in which the pore centre and pore axis are first identified and optimised using geometric criteria, and then the biggest and longest cavity through the channel is detected. Finally, pore features, including diameter profiles, pore-lining residues, size, shape and regularity of the pore are calculated, providing a quantitative and visual characterization of the channel. To illustrate the use of this tool, the method was applied to several structures of transmembrane channel proteins and was able to identify shape/size/residue features representative of specific channel families. The software is available as a web-based resource at

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