Determining protein topology from skeletons of secondary structures

Yinghao Wu, Mingzhi Chen, Mingyang Lu, Qinghua Wang, Jianpeng Ma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


We report a novel computational procedure for determining protein native topology, or fold, by defining loop connectivity based on skeletons of secondary structures that can usually be obtained from low to intermediate-resolution density maps. The procedure primarily involves a knowledge-based geometry filter followed by an energetics-based evaluation. It was tested on a large set of skeletons covering a wide range of protein architecture, including one modeled from an experimentally determined 7.6 Å cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) density map. The results showed that the new procedure could effectively deduce protein folds without high-resolution structural data, a feature that could also be used to recognize native fold in structure prediction and to interpret data in fields like structure genomics. Most importantly, in the energetics-based evaluation, it was revealed that, despite the inevitable errors in the artificially constructed structures and limited accuracy of knowledge-based potential functions, the average energy of an ensemble of structures with slightly different configurations around the native skeleton is a much more robust parameter for marking native topology than the energy of individual structures in the ensemble. This result implies that, among all the possible topology candidates for a given skeleton, evolution has selected the native topology as the one that can accommodate the largest structural variations, not the one rigidly trapped in a deep, but narrow, conformational energy well.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)571-586
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Molecular Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 15 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Geometry scoring
  • Protein fold
  • Secondary structure assignment
  • Secondary-structural skeleton
  • Topology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Biophysics
  • Structural Biology


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