Determining the three-dimensional fold of a protein from approximate constraints: A simulation study

Kizhake Soman, Werner Braun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


We propose a new approach for calculating the three-dimensional (3D) structure of a protein from distance and dihedral angle constraints derived from experimental data. We suggest that such constraints can be obtained from experiments such as tritium planigraphy, chemical or enzymatic cleavage of the polypeptide chain, paramagnetic perturbation of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectra, measurement of hydrogen-exchange rates, mutational studies, mass spectrometry, and electron paramagnetic resonance. These can be supplemented with constraints from theoretical prediction of secondary structures and of buried/exposed residues. We report here distance geometry calculations to generate the structures of a test protein Staphyiococcal nuclease (STN), and the HIV-1 rev protein (REV) of unknown structure. From the available 3D atomic coordinates of STN, we set up simulated data sets consisting of varying number and quality of constraints, and used our group's Self Correcting Distance Geometry (SECODG) program DIAMOD to generate structures. We could generate the correct tertiary fold from qualitative (approximate) as well as precise distance constraints. The root mean square deviations of backbone atoms from the native structure were in the range of 2.0 Å to 8.3 Å, depending on the number of constraints used. We could also generate the correct fold starting from a subset of atoms that are on the surface and those that are buried. When we used data sets containing a small fraction of incorrect distance constraints, the SECODG technique was able to detect and correct them. In the case of REV, we used a combination of constraints obtained from rnutagenic data and structure predictions. DIAMOD generated helix-loop-helix models, which, after four self-correcting cycles, populated one family exclusively. The features of the energy-minimized model are consistent with the available data on REV-RNA interaction. Our method could thus be an attractive alternative for calculating protein 3D structures, especially in cases where the traditional methods of X-ray crystallography and multidimensional NMR spectroscopy have been unsuccessful.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)283-304
Number of pages22
JournalCell Biochemistry and Biophysics
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Ab initio structure prediction
  • Distance geometry
  • HIV-1 rev protein
  • Protein structure
  • Staphylococcal nuclease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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