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PLoS Comput Biol. 2014 Apr 24;10(4):e1003569. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003569. eCollection 2014 Apr.

A coarse-grained elastic network atom contact model and its use in the simulation of protein dynamics and the prediction of the effect of mutations.

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Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada.


Normal mode analysis (NMA) methods are widely used to study dynamic aspects of protein structures. Two critical components of NMA methods are coarse-graining in the level of simplification used to represent protein structures and the choice of potential energy functional form. There is a trade-off between speed and accuracy in different choices. In one extreme one finds accurate but slow molecular-dynamics based methods with all-atom representations and detailed atom potentials. On the other extreme, fast elastic network model (ENM) methods with Cα-only representations and simplified potentials that based on geometry alone, thus oblivious to protein sequence. Here we present ENCoM, an Elastic Network Contact Model that employs a potential energy function that includes a pairwise atom-type non-bonded interaction term and thus makes it possible to consider the effect of the specific nature of amino-acids on dynamics within the context of NMA. ENCoM is as fast as existing ENM methods and outperforms such methods in the generation of conformational ensembles. Here we introduce a new application for NMA methods with the use of ENCoM in the prediction of the effect of mutations on protein stability. While existing methods are based on machine learning or enthalpic considerations, the use of ENCoM, based on vibrational normal modes, is based on entropic considerations. This represents a novel area of application for NMA methods and a novel approach for the prediction of the effect of mutations. We compare ENCoM to a large number of methods in terms of accuracy and self-consistency. We show that the accuracy of ENCoM is comparable to that of the best existing methods. We show that existing methods are biased towards the prediction of destabilizing mutations and that ENCoM is less biased at predicting stabilizing mutations.

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