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Title: DeepComplex: A Web Server of Predicting Protein Complex Structures by Deep Learning Inter-chain Contact Prediction and Distance-Based Modelling
Proteins interact to form complexes. Predicting the quaternary structure of protein complexes is useful for protein function analysis, protein engineering, and drug design. However, few user-friendly tools leveraging the latest deep learning technology for inter-chain contact prediction and the distance-based modelling to predict protein quaternary structures are available. To address this gap, we develop DeepComplex, a web server for predicting structures of dimeric protein complexes. It uses deep learning to predict inter-chain contacts in a homodimer or heterodimer. The predicted contacts are then used to construct a quaternary structure of the dimer by the distance-based modelling, which can be interactively viewed and analysed. The web server is freely accessible and requires no registration. It can be easily used by providing a job name and an email address along with the tertiary structure for one chain of a homodimer or two chains of a heterodimer. The output webpage provides the multiple sequence alignment, predicted inter-chain residue-residue contact map, and predicted quaternary structure of the dimer. DeepComplex web server is freely available at  more » « less
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Frontiers in Molecular Biosciences
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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  1. Residue-residue distance information is useful for predicting tertiary structures of protein monomers or quaternary structures of protein complexes. Many deep learning methods have been developed to predict intra-chain residue-residue distances of monomers accurately, but few methods can accurately predict inter-chain residue-residue distances of complexes. We develop a deep learning method CDPred (i.e., Complex Distance Prediction) based on the 2D attention-powered residual network to address the gap. Tested on two homodimer datasets, CDPred achieves the precision of 60.94% and 42.93% for top L/5 inter-chain contact predictions (L: length of the monomer in homodimer), respectively, substantially higher than DeepHomo’s 37.40% and 23.08% and GLINTER’s 48.09% and 36.74%. Tested on the two heterodimer datasets, the top Ls/5 inter-chain contact prediction precision (Ls: length of the shorter monomer in heterodimer) of CDPred is 47.59% and 22.87% respectively, surpassing GLINTER’s 23.24% and 13.49%. Moreover, the prediction of CDPred is complementary with that of AlphaFold2-multimer. 
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  2. Abstract Motivation

    Deep learning has revolutionized protein tertiary structure prediction recently. The cutting-edge deep learning methods such as AlphaFold can predict high-accuracy tertiary structures for most individual protein chains. However, the accuracy of predicting quaternary structures of protein complexes consisting of multiple chains is still relatively low due to lack of advanced deep learning methods in the field. Because interchain residue–residue contacts can be used as distance restraints to guide quaternary structure modeling, here we develop a deep dilated convolutional residual network method (DRCon) to predict interchain residue–residue contacts in homodimers from residue–residue co-evolutionary signals derived from multiple sequence alignments of monomers, intrachain residue–residue contacts of monomers extracted from true/predicted tertiary structures or predicted by deep learning, and other sequence and structural features.


    Tested on three homodimer test datasets (Homo_std dataset, DeepHomo dataset and CASP-CAPRI dataset), the precision of DRCon for top L/5 interchain contact predictions (L: length of monomer in a homodimer) is 43.46%, 47.10% and 33.50% respectively at 6 Å contact threshold, which is substantially better than DeepHomo and DNCON2_inter and similar to Glinter. Moreover, our experiments demonstrate that using predicted tertiary structure or intrachain contacts of monomers in the unbound state as input, DRCon still performs well, even though its accuracy is lower than using true tertiary structures in the bound state are used as input. Finally, our case study shows that good interchain contact predictions can be used to build high-accuracy quaternary structure models of homodimers.

    Availability and implementation

    The source code of DRCon is available at The datasets are available at

    Supplementary information

    Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.

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    Abstract Background Protein inter-residue contact and distance prediction are two key intermediate steps essential to accurate protein structure prediction. Distance prediction comes in two forms: real-valued distances and ‘binned’ distograms, which are a more finely grained variant of the binary contact prediction problem. The latter has been introduced as a new challenge in the 14th Critical Assessment of Techniques for Protein Structure Prediction (CASP14) 2020 experiment. Despite the recent proliferation of methods for predicting distances, few methods exist for evaluating these predictions. Currently only numerical metrics, which evaluate the entire prediction at once, are used. These give no insight into the structural details of a prediction. For this reason, new methods and tools are needed. Results We have developed a web server for evaluating predicted inter-residue distances. Our server, DISTEVAL, accepts predicted contacts, distances, and a true structure as optional inputs to generate informative heatmaps, chord diagrams, and 3D models. All of these outputs facilitate visual and qualitative assessment. The server also evaluates predictions using other metrics such as mean absolute error, root mean squared error, and contact precision. Conclusions The visualizations generated by DISTEVAL complement each other and collectively serve as a powerful tool for both quantitative and qualitative assessments of predicted contacts and distances, even in the absence of a true 3D structure. 
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  4. Abstract Deep learning methods that achieved great success in predicting intrachain residue-residue contacts have been applied to predict interchain contacts between proteins. However, these methods require multiple sequence alignments (MSAs) of a pair of interacting proteins (dimers) as input, which are often difficult to obtain because there are not many known protein complexes available to generate MSAs of sufficient depth for a pair of proteins. In recognizing that multiple sequence alignments of a monomer that forms homomultimers contain the co-evolutionary signals of both intrachain and interchain residue pairs in contact, we applied DNCON2 (a deep learning-based protein intrachain residue-residue contact predictor) to predict both intrachain and interchain contacts for homomultimers using multiple sequence alignment (MSA) and other co-evolutionary features of a single monomer followed by discrimination of interchain and intrachain contacts according to the tertiary structure of the monomer. We name this tool DNCON2_Inter. Allowing true-positive predictions within two residue shifts, the best average precision was obtained for the Top-L/10 predictions of 22.9% for homodimers and 17.0% for higher-order homomultimers. In some instances, especially where interchain contact densities are high, DNCON2_Inter predicted interchain contacts with 100% precision. We also developed Con_Complex, a complex structure reconstruction tool that uses predicted contacts to produce the structure of the complex. Using Con_Complex, we show that the predicted contacts can be used to accurately construct the structure of some complexes. Our experiment demonstrates that monomeric multiple sequence alignments can be used with deep learning to predict interchain contacts of homomeric proteins. 
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  5. null (Ed.)
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