Combinatorial docking approach for structure prediction of large proteins and multi-molecular assemblies

Yuval Inbar*, Hadar Benyamini, Ruth Nussinov, Haim J. Wolfson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Protein folding and protein binding are similar processes. In both, structural units combinatorially associate with each other. In the case of folding, we mostly handle relatively small units, building blocks or domains, that are covalently linked. In the case of multi-molecular binding, the subunits are relatively large and are associated only by non-covalent bonds. Experimentally, the difficulty in the determination of the structures of such large assemblies increases with the complex size and the number of components it contains. Computationally, the prediction of the structures of multi-molecular complexes has largely not been addressed, probably owing to the magnitude of the combinatorial complexity of the problem. Current docking algorithms mostly target prediction of pairwise interactions. Here our goal is to predict the structures of multi-unit associations, whether these are chain-connected as in protein folding, or separate disjoint molecules in the assemblies. We assume that the structures of the single units are known, either through experimental determination or modeling. Our aim is to combinatorially assemble these units to predict their structure. To address this problem we have developed CombDock. CombDock is a combinatorial docking algorithm for the structural units assembly problem. Below, we briefly describe the algorithm and present examples of its various applications to folding and to multi-molecular assemblies. To test the robustness of the algorithm, we use inaccurate models of the structural units, derived either from crystal structures of unbound molecules or from modeling of the target sequences. The algorithm has been able to predict near-native arrangements of the input structural units in almost all of the cases, suggesting that a combinatorial approach can overcome the imperfect shape complementarity caused by the inaccuracy of the models. In addition, we further show that through a combinatorial docking strategy it is possible to enhance the predictions of pairwise interactions involved in a multi-molecular assembly.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S156-S165
JournalPhysical Biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2005


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