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In Frontiers in bioinformatics

During the past five years, deep-learning algorithms have enabled ground-breaking progress towards the prediction of tertiary structure from a protein sequence. Very recently, we developed SAdLSA, a new computational algorithm for protein sequence comparison via deep-learning of protein structural alignments. SAdLSA shows significant improvement over established sequence alignment methods. In this contribution, we show that SAdLSA provides a general machine-learning framework for structurally characterizing protein sequences. By aligning a protein sequence against itself, SAdLSA generates a fold distogram for the input sequence, including challenging cases whose structural folds were not present in the training set. About 70% of the predicted distograms are statistically significant. Although at present the accuracy of the intra-sequence distogram predicted by SAdLSA self-alignment is not as good as deep-learning algorithms specifically trained for distogram prediction, it is remarkable that the prediction of single protein structures is encoded by an algorithm that learns ensembles of pairwise structural comparisons, without being explicitly trained to recognize individual structural folds. As such, SAdLSA can not only predict protein folds for individual sequences, but also detects subtle, yet significant, structural relationships between multiple protein sequences using the same deep-learning neural network. The former reduces to a special case in this general framework for protein sequence annotation.

Gao Mu, Skolnick Jeffrey


deep-learning, protein folding, protein structure prediction, sequence alignment, structural alignment