Main content area

A structural-alphabet-based strategy for finding structural motifs across protein families

Wu, Chih Yuan, Chen, Yao Chi, Lim, Carmay
Nucleic acids research 2010 v.38 no.14 pp. e150
DNA, DNA-binding proteins, RNA, binding sites, guidelines
Proteins with insignificant sequence and overall structure similarity may still share locally conserved contiguous structural segments; i.e. structural/3D motifs. Most methods for finding 3D motifs require a known motif to search for other similar structures or functionally/structurally crucial residues. Here, without requiring a query motif or essential residues, a fully automated method for discovering 3D motifs of various sizes across protein families with different folds based on a 16-letter structural alphabet is presented. It was applied to structurally non-redundant proteins bound to DNA, RNA, obligate/non-obligate proteins as well as free DNA-binding proteins (DBPs) and proteins with known structures but unknown function. Its usefulness was illustrated by analyzing the 3D motifs found in DBPs. A non-specific motif was found with a 'corner' architecture that confers a stable scaffold and enables diverse interactions, making it suitable for binding not only DNA but also RNA and proteins. Furthermore, DNA-specific motifs present 'only' in DBPs were discovered. The motifs found can provide useful guidelines in detecting binding sites and computational protein redesign.