Modular decomposition of protein structure using community detection

Grant, WP 
Ahnert, SE 
Estrada, E 

Thumbnail Image
Change log

As the number of solved protein structures increases, the opportunities for meta-analysis of this dataset increase too. Protein structures are known to be formed of domains; structural and functional subunits that are often repeated across sets of proteins. These domains generally form compact, globular regions, and are therefore often easily identifiable by inspection, yet the problem of automatically fragmenting the protein into these compact substructures remains computationally challenging. Existing domain classification methods focus on finding subregions of protein structure that are conserved, rather than finding a decomposition which spans the full protein structure. However, such a decomposition would find ready application in coarse-graining molecular dynamics, analysing the protein's topology, in de novo protein design and in fitting electron microscopy maps. Here, we present a tool for performing this modular decomposition using the Infomap community detection algorithm. The protein structure is abstracted into a network in which its amino acids are the nodes, and where the edges are generated using a simple proximity test. Infomap can then be used to identify highly intra-connected regions of the protein. We perform this decomposition systematically across 4000 distinct protein structures, taken from the Protein Data Bank. The decomposition obtained correlates well with existing PFAM sequence classifications, but has the advantage of spanning the full protein, with the potential for novel domains. The coarse-grained network formed by the communities can also be used as a proxy for protein topology at the single-chain level; we demonstrate that grouping these proteins by their coarse-grained network results in a functionally significant classification.

Publication Date
Online Publication Date
Acceptance Date
community detection, protein structure, biological networks, spatial networks
Journal Title
Journal of Complex Networks
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Oxford University Press (OUP)
EPSRC (1644501)
The Royal Society (uf080037)
Gatsby Charitable Foundation (GAT3395/CCD)
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EP/L015552/1)