In a crystallography experiment, a crystal is irradiated with X-rays whose diffracted waves are collected and measured. The reconstruction of the structure of the molecule in the crystal requires knowledge of the phase of the diffracted waves, information that is lost in the passage from the three-dimensional structure of the molecule to its diffraction pattern. It can be recovered using experimental methods such as heavy-atom isomorphous replacement and anomalous scattering or by molecular replacement, which relies on the availability of an atomic model of the target structure. This can be the structure of the target protein itself, if a previous structure determination is available, or a computational model or, in some cases, the structure of a homologous protein. It is not straightforward to predict beforehand whether or not a computational model will work in a molecular replacement experiment, although some rules of thumb exist. The consensus is that even minor differences in the quality of the model, which are rather difficult to estimate a priori, can have a significant effect on the outcome of the procedure. We describe here a method for quickly assessing whether a protein structure can be solved by molecular replacement. The procedure consists in submitting the sequence of the target protein to a selected list of freely available structure prediction servers, cluster the resulting models, select the representative structures of each cluster and use them as search models in an automatic phasing procedure. We tested the procedure using the structure factors of newly released proteins of known structure downloaded from the Protein Data Bank as soon as they were made available. Using our automatic procedure we were able to obtain an interpretable electron density map in more than half the cases.
File in questo prodotto:
Non ci sono file associati a questo prodotto.