Blind testing cross-linking/mass spectrometry under the auspices of the 11th critical assessment of methods of protein structure prediction (CASP11)
Determining the structure of a protein by any method requires varies contributions from experimental and computational sides. In a recent study, high-density cross-linking/mass spectrometry data in combination with ab initio structure prediction by conformational space search determined the structure of human serum albumin (HSA) domains, with an RMSD to X-ray structure of up to 2.53 Å, or 3.38 Å in the context of blood serum. This paper reports the blind test on the readiness of this technology through the help of Critical Assessment of protein Structure Prediction (CASP). We identified between 201-381 unique residue pairs at an estimated 5% FDR (at link level albeit with missing site assignment precision evaluation), for the four proteins that we provided data for. This equates to between 0.63-1.20 proximal residues per residue, which is comparable to that obtained in the HSA study (0.85 links per residue at 5% FDR). Nevertheless, initial results of CASP11 have suggested that improvements in structure prediction using cross-link data are slight. Most significantly, however, CASP11 revealed to us some of the current limitations of cross-linking, spelling out areas in which the method must develop in future: links spread unevenly over sequence and beta sheets both lacked links and suffered from weak definition of observed links over structure. With CASP12 taking place this year and biannually in the future, blind testing low-resolution structure analysis tools is a worthwhile and feasible undertaking. Data are available via ProteomeXchange with identifier PXD003643.
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