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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 1, 2025
  2. Since the 14th Critical Assessment of Techniques for Protein Structure Prediction (CASP14), AlphaFold2 has become the standard method for protein tertiary structure prediction. One remaining challenge is to further improve its prediction. We developed a new version of the MULTICOM system to sample diverse multiple sequence alignments (MSAs) and structural templates to improve the input for AlphaFold2 to generate structural models. The models are then ranked by both the pairwise model similarity and AlphaFold2 self-reported model quality score. The top ranked models are refined by a novel structure alignment-based refinement method powered by Foldseek. Moreover, for a monomer target that is a subunit of a protein assembly (complex), MULTICOM integrates tertiary and quaternary structure predictions to account for tertiary structural changes induced by protein-protein interaction. The system participated in the tertiary structure prediction in 2022 CASP15 experiment. Our server predictor MULTICOM_refine ranked 3rd among 47 CASP15 server predictors and our human predictor MULTICOM ranked 7th among all 132 human and server predictors. The average GDT-TS score and TM-score of the first structural models that MULTICOM_refine predicted for 94 CASP15 domains are ~0.80 and ~0.92, 9.6% and 8.2% higher than ~0.73 and 0.85 of the standard AlphaFold2 predictor respectively.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2024
  3. Abstract Motivation

    The state-of-art protein structure prediction methods such as AlphaFold are being widely used to predict structures of uncharacterized proteins in biomedical research. There is a significant need to further improve the quality and nativeness of the predicted structures to enhance their usability. In this work, we develop ATOMRefine, a deep learning-based, end-to-end, all-atom protein structural model refinement method. It uses a SE(3)-equivariant graph transformer network to directly refine protein atomic coordinates in a predicted tertiary structure represented as a molecular graph.


    The method is first trained and tested on the structural models in AlphaFoldDB whose experimental structures are known, and then blindly tested on 69 CASP14 regular targets and 7 CASP14 refinement targets. ATOMRefine improves the quality of both backbone atoms and all-atom conformation of the initial structural models generated by AlphaFold. It also performs better than two state-of-the-art refinement methods in multiple evaluation metrics including an all-atom model quality score—the MolProbity score based on the analysis of all-atom contacts, bond length, atom clashes, torsion angles, and side-chain rotamers. As ATOMRefine can refine a protein structure quickly, it provides a viable, fast solution for improving protein geometry and fixing structural errors of predicted structures through direct coordinate refinement.

    Availability and implementation

    The source code of ATOMRefine is available in the GitHub repository ( All the required data for training and testing are available at

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  4. 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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  5. The information about the domain architecture of proteins is useful for studying protein structure and function. However, accurate prediction of protein domain boundaries (i.e., sequence regions separating two domains) from sequence remains a significant challenge. In this work, we develop a deep learning method based on multi-head U-Nets (called DistDom) to predict protein domain boundaries utilizing 1D sequence features and predicted 2D inter-residue distance map as input. The 1D features contain the evolutionary and physicochemical information of protein sequences, whereas the 2D distance map includes the structural information of proteins that was rarely used in domain boundary prediction before. The 1D and 2D features are processed by the 1D and 2D U-Nets respectively to generate hidden features. The hidden features are then used by the multi-head attention to predict the probability of each residue of a protein being in a domain boundary, leveraging both local and global information in the features. The residue-level domain boundary predictions can be used to classify proteins as single-domain or multi-domain proteins. It classifies the CASP14 single-domain and multi-domain targets at the accuracy of 75.9%, 13.28% more accurate than the state-of-the-art method. Tested on the CASP14 multi-domain protein targets with expert annotated domain boundaries, the average per-target F1 measure score of the domain boundary prediction by DistDom is 0.263, 29.56% higher than the state-of-the-art method. 
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  6. null (Ed.)
    Abstract Background Driven by deep learning, inter-residue contact/distance prediction has been significantly improved and substantially enhanced ab initio protein structure prediction. Currently, most of the distance prediction methods classify inter-residue distances into multiple distance intervals instead of directly predicting real-value distances. The output of the former has to be converted into real-value distances to be used in tertiary structure prediction. Results To explore the potentials of predicting real-value inter-residue distances, we develop a multi-task deep learning distance predictor (DeepDist) based on new residual convolutional network architectures to simultaneously predict real-value inter-residue distances and classify them into multiple distance intervals. Tested on 43 CASP13 hard domains, DeepDist achieves comparable performance in real-value distance prediction and multi-class distance prediction. The average mean square error (MSE) of DeepDist’s real-value distance prediction is 0.896 Å 2 when filtering out the predicted distance ≥ 16 Å, which is lower than 1.003 Å 2 of DeepDist’s multi-class distance prediction. When distance predictions are converted into contact predictions at 8 Å threshold (the standard threshold in the field), the precision of top L/5 and L/2 contact predictions of DeepDist’s multi-class distance prediction is 79.3% and 66.1%, respectively, higher than 78.6% and 64.5% of its real-value distance prediction and the best results in the CASP13 experiment. Conclusions DeepDist can predict inter-residue distances well and improve binary contact prediction over the existing state-of-the-art methods. Moreover, the predicted real-value distances can be directly used to reconstruct protein tertiary structures better than multi-class distance predictions due to the lower MSE. Finally, we demonstrate that predicting the real-value distance map and multi-class distance map at the same time performs better than predicting real-value distances alone. 
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  7. null (Ed.)
    Abstract The inter-residue contact prediction and deep learning showed the promise to improve the estimation of protein model accuracy (EMA) in the 13th Critical Assessment of Protein Structure Prediction (CASP13). To further leverage the improved inter-residue distance predictions to enhance EMA, during the 2020 CASP14 experiment, we integrated several new inter-residue distance features with the existing model quality assessment features in several deep learning methods to predict the quality of protein structural models. According to the evaluation of performance in selecting the best model from the models of CASP14 targets, our three multi-model predictors of estimating model accuracy (MULTICOM-CONSTRUCT, MULTICOM-AI, and MULTICOM-CLUSTER) achieve the averaged loss of 0.073, 0.079, and 0.081, respectively, in terms of the global distance test score (GDT-TS). The three methods are ranked first, second, and third out of all 68 CASP14 predictors. MULTICOM-DEEP, the single-model predictor of estimating model accuracy (EMA), is ranked within top 10 among all the single-model EMA methods according to GDT-TS score loss. The results demonstrate that inter-residue distance features are valuable inputs for deep learning to predict the quality of protein structural models. However, larger training datasets and better ways of leveraging inter-residue distance information are needed to fully explore its potentials. 
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  8. Abstract

    Protein structure prediction is an important problem in bioinformatics and has been studied for decades. However, there are still few open-source comprehensive protein structure prediction packages publicly available in the field. In this paper, we present our latest open-source protein tertiary structure prediction system—MULTICOM2, an integration of template-based modeling (TBM) and template-free modeling (FM) methods. The template-based modeling uses sequence alignment tools with deep multiple sequence alignments to search for structural templates, which are much faster and more accurate than MULTICOM1. The template-free (ab initio or de novo) modeling uses the inter-residue distances predicted by DeepDist to reconstruct tertiary structure models without using any known structure as template. In the blind CASP14 experiment, the average TM-score of the models predicted by our server predictor based on the MULTICOM2 system is 0.720 for 58 TBM (regular) domains and 0.514 for 38 FM and FM/TBM (hard) domains, indicating that MULTICOM2 is capable of predicting good tertiary structures across the board. It can predict the correct fold for 76 CASP14 domains (95% regular domains and 55% hard domains) if only one prediction is made for a domain. The success rate is increased to 3% for both regular and hard domains if five predictions are made per domain. Moreover, the prediction accuracy of the pure template-free structure modeling method on both TBM and FM targets is very close to the combination of template-based and template-free modeling methods. This demonstrates that the distance-based template-free modeling method powered by deep learning can largely replace the traditional template-based modeling method even on TBM targets that TBM methods used to dominate and therefore provides a uniform structure modeling approach to any protein. Finally, on the 38 CASP14 FM and FM/TBM hard domains, MULTICOM2 server predictors (MULTICOM-HYBRID, MULTICOM-DEEP, MULTICOM-DIST) were ranked among the top 20 automated server predictors in the CASP14 experiment. After combining multiple predictors from the same research group as one entry, MULTICOM-HYBRID was ranked no. 5. The source code of MULTICOM2 is freely available at

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  9. Martelli, Pier Luigi (Ed.)
    Abstract Motivation Accurate prediction of residue-residue distances is important for protein structure prediction. We developed several protein distance predictors based on a deep learning distance prediction method and blindly tested them in the 14th Critical Assessment of Protein Structure Prediction (CASP14). The prediction method uses deep residual neural networks with the channel-wise attention mechanism to classify the distance between every two residues into multiple distance intervals. The input features for the deep learning method include co-evolutionary features as well as other sequence-based features derived from multiple sequence alignments (MSAs). Three alignment methods are used with multiple protein sequence/profile databases to generate MSAs for input feature generation. Based on different configurations and training strategies of the deep learning method, five MULTICOM distance predictors were created to participate in the CASP14 experiment. Results Benchmarked on 37 hard CASP14 domains, the best performing MULTICOM predictor is ranked 5th out of 30 automated CASP14 distance prediction servers in terms of precision of top L/5 long-range contact predictions (i.e. classifying distances between two residues into two categories: in contact (< 8 Angstrom) and not in contact otherwise) and performs better than the best CASP13 distance prediction method. The best performing MULTICOM predictor is also ranked 6th among automated server predictors in classifying inter-residue distances into 10 distance intervals defined by CASP14 according to the precision of distance classification. The results show that the quality and depth of MSAs depend on alignment methods and sequence databases and have a significant impact on the accuracy of distance prediction. Using larger training datasets and multiple complementary features improves prediction accuracy. However, the number of effective sequences in MSAs is only a weak indicator of the quality of MSAs and the accuracy of predicted distance maps. In contrast, there is a strong correlation between the accuracy of contact/distance predictions and the average probability of the predicted contacts, which can therefore be more effectively used to estimate the confidence of distance predictions and select predicted distance maps. Availability The software package, source code, and data of DeepDist2 are freely available at and 
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  10. null (Ed.)