Visualizing and quantifying molecular goodness-of-fit: small-probe contact dots with explicit hydrogen atoms.
The technique of small-probe contact dot surfaces is described as a method for calculating and displaying the detailed atomic contacts inside or between molecules. It allows one both to measure and to visualize directly the goodness-of-fit of packing interactions. It requires both highly accurate structures and also the explicit inclusion of all hydrogen atoms and their van der Waals interactions. A reference dataset of 100 protein structures was chosen on the basis of resolution (1.7 A or better), crystallographic R-value, non-homology, and the absence of any unusual problems. Hydrogen atoms were added in standard geometry and, where needed, with rotational optimization of OH, SH, and NH+3 positions. Side-chain amide orientations were corrected where required by NH van der Waals clashes, as described in the accompanying paper. It was determined that, in general, methyl groups pack well in the default staggered conformation, except for the terminal methyl groups of methionine residues, which required rotational optimization. The distribution of serious clashes (i.e. non-H-bond overlap of >/=0.4 A) was studied as a function of resolution, alternate conformations, and temperature factor (B), leading to the decision that packing and other structural features would not be analyzed for residues in 'b' alternate conformations or with B-factors of 40 or above. At the level of the fine details analyzed here, structural accuracy improves quite significantly over the range from 1.7 to 1.0 A resolution. These high-resolution structures show impressively well-fitted packing interactions, with some regions thoroughly interdigitated and other regions somewhat sparser. Lower-resolution structures or model structures could undoubtedly be improved in accuracy by the incorporation of this additional information: for example, nucleic acid structures in non-canonical conformations are often very accurate for the bases and much less reliable for the backbone, whose conformation could be specified better by including explicit H atom geometry and contacts. The contact dots are an extremely sensitive method of finding problem areas, and often they can suggest how to make improvements. They can also provide explanations for structural features that have been described only as empirical regularities, which is illustrated by showing that the commonest rotamer of methionine (a left-handed spiral, with all chi values near -60 degrees) is preferred because it provides up to five good H atom van der Waals contacts. This methodology is thus applicable in two different ways: (1) for finding and correcting errors in structure models (either experimental or theoretical); and (2) for analyzing interaction patterns in the molecules themselves.
Word, JM; Lovell, SC; LaBean, TH; Taylor, HC; Zalis, ME; Presley, BK; Richardson, JS; Richardson, DC
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