Incorporating knowledge-based biases into an energy-based side-chain modeling method: Application to comparative modeling of protein structure

Joaquim Mendes, Hampapathalu A. Nagarajaram, Cláudio M. Soares, Tom L. Blundell, Maria Arménia Carrondo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


The performance of the self-consistent mean field theory (SCMFT) method for side-chain modeling, employing rotamer energies calculated with the flexible rotamer model (FRM), is evaluated in the context of comparative modeling of protein structure. Predictions were carried out on a test set of 56 model backbones of varying accuracy, to allow side-chain prediction accuracy to be analyzed as a function of backbone accuracy. A progressive decrease in the accuracy of prediction was observed as backbone accuracy decreased. However, even for very low backbone accuracy, prediction was substantially higher than random, indicating that the FRM can, in part, compensate for the errors in the modeled tertiary environment. It was also investigated whether the introduction in the FRM-SCMFT method of knowledge-based biases, derived from a backbone-dependent rotamer library, could enhance its performance. A bias derived from the backbone-dependent rotamer conformations alone did not improve prediction accuracy. However, a bias derived from the backbone-dependent rotamer probabilities improved prediction accuracy considerably. This bias was incorporated through two different strategies. In one (the indirect strategy), rotamer probabilities were used to reject unlikely rotamers a priori, thus restricting prediction by FRM-SCMFT to a subset containing only the most probable rotamers in the library. In the other (the direct strategy), rotamer energies were transformed into pseudo-energies that were added to the average potential energies of the respective rotamers, thereby creating hybrid energy-based/ knowledge-based average rotamer energies, which were used by the FRM-SCMFT method for prediction. For all degrees of backbone accuracy, an optimal strength of the knowledge-based bias existed for both strategies for which predictions were more accurate than pure energy-based predictions, and also than pure knowledge-based predictions. Hybrid knowledge-based/energy-based methods were obtained from both strategies and compared with the SCWRL method, a hybrid method based on the same backbone-dependent rotamer library. The accuracy of the indirect method was approximately the same as that of the SCWRL method, but that of the direct method was significantly higher.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)72-86
Number of pages15
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jul 2001


  • Backbone-dependent rotamer library
  • Flexible rotamer model
  • Mean field theory
  • Protein structure prediction
  • Side-chain modeling


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