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In Frontiers in molecular biosciences

Computational de novo protein design tailors proteins for target structures and oligomerisation states with high stability, which allows overcoming many limitations of natural proteins when redesigned for new functions. Despite significant advances in the field over the past decade, it remains challenging to predict sequences that will fold as stable monomers in solution or binders to a particular protein target; thereby requiring substantial experimental resources to identify proteins with the desired properties. To overcome this, here we leveraged the large amount of design data accumulated in the last decade, and the breakthrough in protein structure prediction from last year to investigate on improved ways of selecting promising designs before experimental testing. We collected de novo proteins from previous studies, 518 designed as monomers of different folds and 2112 as binders against the Botulinum neurotoxin, and analysed their structures with AlphaFold2, RoseTTAFold and fragment quality descriptors in combination with other properties related to surface interactions. These features showed high complementarity in rationalizing the experimental results, which allowed us to generate quite accurate machine learning models for predicting well-folded monomers and binders with a small set of descriptors. Cross-validating designs with varied orthogonal computational techniques should guide us for identifying design imperfections, rescuing designs and making more robust design selections before experimental testing.

PeƱas-Utrilla Daniel, Marcos Enrique


AlphaFold2, RoseTTAFold, de novo protein design, machine learning, protein binding, protein folding, protein monomer, solubility