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Mapping Function from Dynamics: Future Challenges for Network-Based Models of Protein Structures

  • Pacini, Lorenza
  • Dorantes-Gilardi, Rodrigo
  • Vuillon, Laurent
  • Lesieur, Claire
Published Article
Frontiers in Molecular Biosciences
Frontiers Media SA
Publication Date
Oct 11, 2021
DOI: 10.3389/fmolb.2021.744646
  • Molecular Biosciences
  • Perspective


Proteins fulfill complex and diverse biological functions through the controlled atomic motions of their structures (functional dynamics). The protein composition is given by its amino-acid sequence, which was assumed to encode the function. However, the discovery of functional sequence variants proved that the functional encoding does not come down to the sequence, otherwise a change in the sequence would mean a change of function. Likewise, the discovery that function is fulfilled by a set of structures and not by a unique structure showed that the functional encoding does not come down to the structure either. That leaves us with the possibility that a set of atomic motions, achievable by different sequences and different structures, encodes a specific function. Thanks to the exponential growth in annual depositions in the Protein Data Bank of protein tridimensional structures at atomic resolutions, network models using the Cartesian coordinates of atoms of a protein structure as input have been used over 20 years to investigate protein features. Combining networks with experimental measures or with Molecular Dynamics (MD) simulations and using typical or ad-hoc network measures is well suited to decipher the link between protein dynamics and function. One perspective is to consider static structures alone as alternatives to address the question and find network measures relevant to dynamics that can be subsequently used for mining and classification of dynamic sequence changes functionally robust, adaptable or faulty. This way the set of dynamics that fulfill a function over a diversity of sequences and structures will be determined.

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