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Proteins. 2010 Aug 1;78(10):2189-201. doi: 10.1002/prot.22731.

FoldGPCR: structure prediction protocol for the transmembrane domain of G protein-coupled receptors from class A.

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Department of Molecular Biology, The Scripps Research Institute, 10550 N. Torrey Pines Rd, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA.


Building reliable structural models of G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) is a difficult task because of the paucity of suitable templates, low sequence identity, and the wide variety of ligand specificities within the superfamily. Template-based modeling is known to be the most successful method for protein structure prediction. However, refinement of homology models within 1-3 A C alpha RMSD of the native structure remains a major challenge. Here, we address this problem by developing a novel protocol (foldGPCR) for modeling the transmembrane (TM) region of GPCRs in complex with a ligand, aimed to accurately model the structural divergence between the template and target in the TM helices. The protocol is based on predicted conserved inter-residue contacts between the template and target, and exploits an all-atom implicit membrane force field. The placement of the ligand in the binding pocket is guided by biochemical data. The foldGPCR protocol is implemented by a stepwise hierarchical approach, in which the TM helical bundle and the ligand are assembled by simulated annealing trials in the first step, and the receptor-ligand complex is refined with replica exchange sampling in the second step. The protocol is applied to model the human beta(2)-adrenergic receptor (beta(2)AR) bound to carazolol, using contacts derived from the template structure of bovine rhodopsin. Comparison with the X-ray crystal structure of the beta(2)AR shows that our protocol is particularly successful in accurately capturing helix backbone irregularities and helix-helix packing interactions that distinguish rhodopsin from beta(2)AR.

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