New Approaches to Protein Structure Prediction
Li, Shuai Cheng
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Protein structure prediction is concerned with the prediction of a protein's three dimensional structure from its amino acid sequence. Such predictions are commonly performed by searching the possible structures and evaluating each structure by using some scoring function. If it is assumed that the target protein structure resembles the structure of a known protein, the search space can be significantly reduced. Such an approach is referred to as comparative structure prediction. When such an assumption is not made, the approach is known as ab initio structure prediction. There are several difficulties in devising efficient searches or in computing the scoring function. Many of these problems have ready solutions from known mathematical methods. However, the problems that are yet unsolved have hindered structure prediction methods from more ideal predictions. The objective of this study is to present a complete framework for ab initio protein structure prediction. To achieve this, a new search strategy is proposed, and better techniques are devised for computing the known scoring functions. Some of the remaining problems in protein structure prediction are revisited. Several of them are shown to be intractable. In many of these cases, approximation methods are suggested as alternative solutions. The primary issues addressed in this thesis are concerned with local structures prediction, structure assembly or sampling, side chain packing, model comparison, and structural alignment. For brevity, we do not elaborate on these problems here; a concise introduction is given in the first section of this thesis. Results from these studies prompted the development of several programs, forming a utility suite for ab initio protein structure prediction. Due to the general usefulness of these programs, some of them are released with open source licenses to benefit the community.