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.
The source code of ATOMRefine is available in the GitHub repository (https://github.com/BioinfoMachineLearning/ATOMRefine). All the required data for training and testing are available at https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.6944368.