Piecewise linear approximation of protein structures using the principle of minimum message length

Arun S. Konagurthu, Lloyd Allison, Peter J. Stuckey, Arthur M. Lesk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Simple and concise representations of protein-folding patterns provide powerful abstractions for visualizations, comparisons, classifications, searching and aligning structural data. Structures are often abstracted by replacing standard secondary structural features-that is, helices and strands of sheet-by vectors or linear segments. Relying solely on standard secondary structure may result in a significant loss of structural information. Further, traditional methods of simplification crucially depend on the consistency and accuracy of external methods to assign secondary structures to protein coordinate data. Although many methods exist automatically to identify secondary structure, the impreciseness of definitions, along with errors and inconsistencies in experimental structure data, drastically limit their applicability to generate reliable simplified representations, especially for structural comparison. This article introduces a mathematically rigorous algorithm to delineate protein structure using the elegant statistical and inductive inference framework of minimum message length (MML). Our method generates consistent and statistically robust piecewise linear explanations of protein coordinate data, resulting in a powerful and concise representation of the structure. The delineation is completely independent of the approaches of using hydrogen-bonding patterns or inspecting local substructural geometry that the current methods use. Indeed, as is common with applications of the MML criterion, this method is free of parameters and thresholds, in striking contrast to the existing programs which are often beset by them. The analysis of results over a large number of proteins suggests that the method produces consistent delineation of structures that encompasses, among others, the segments corresponding to standard secondary structure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberbtr240
Pages (from-to)i43-i51
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics
  • Computational Mathematics


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