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Fold Des. 1997;2(5):295-306.

Recovery of protein structure from contact maps.

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Department of Physics of Complex Systems, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel.



Prediction of a protein's structure from its amino acid sequence is a key issue in molecular biology. While dynamics, performed in the space of two-dimensional contact maps, eases the necessary conformational search, it may also lead to maps that do not correspond to any real three-dimensional structure. To remedy this, an efficient procedure is needed to reconstruct three-dimensional conformations from their contact maps.


We present an efficient algorithm to recover the three-dimensional structure of a protein from its contact map representation. We show that when a physically realizable map is used as target, our method generates a structure whose contact map is essentially similar to the target. furthermore, the reconstructed and original structures are similar up to the resolution of the contact map representation. Next, we use nonphysical target maps, obtained by corrupting a physical one; in this case, our method essentially recovers the underlying physical map and structure. Hence, our algorithm will help to fold proteins, using dynamics in the space of contact maps. Finally, we investigate the manner in which the quality of the recovered structure degrades when the number of contacts is reduced.


The procedure is capable of assigning quickly and reliably a three-dimensional structure to a given contact map. It is well suited for use in parallel with dynamics in contact map space to project a contact map onto its closest physically allowed structural counterpart.

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