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Biophys J. 2011 Dec 21;101(12):2981-91. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2011.11.003. Epub 2011 Dec 20.

Accurate flexible fitting of high-resolution protein structures to small-angle x-ray scattering data using a coarse-grained model with implicit hydration shell.

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Physics Department, University at Buffalo, State University of New York, Buffalo, New York, USA.


Small-angle x-ray scattering (SAXS) is a powerful technique widely used to explore conformational states and transitions of biomolecular assemblies in solution. For accurate model reconstruction from SAXS data, one promising approach is to flexibly fit a known high-resolution protein structure to low-resolution SAXS data by computer simulations. This is a highly challenging task due to low information content in SAXS data. To meet this challenge, we have developed what we believe to be a novel method based on a coarse-grained (one-bead-per-residue) protein representation and a modified form of the elastic network model that allows large-scale conformational changes while maintaining pseudobonds and secondary structures. Our method optimizes a pseudoenergy that combines the modified elastic-network model energy with a SAXS-fitting score and a collision energy that penalizes steric collisions. Our method uses what we consider a new implicit hydration shell model that accounts for the contribution of hydration shell to SAXS data accurately without explicitly adding waters to the system. We have rigorously validated our method using five test cases with simulated SAXS data and three test cases with experimental SAXS data. Our method has successfully generated high-quality structural models with root mean-squared deviation of 1 ∼ 3 Å from the target structures.

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