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AlphaFold predictions are valuable hypotheses and accelerate but do not replace experimental structure determination.

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Terwilliger, Thomas C  ORCID logo
Liebschner, Dorothee  ORCID logo
Williams, Christopher J  ORCID logo
McCoy, Airlie J 


Artificial intelligence-based protein structure prediction methods such as AlphaFold have revolutionized structural biology. The accuracies of these predictions vary, however, and they do not take into account ligands, covalent modifications or other environmental factors. Here, we evaluate how well AlphaFold predictions can be expected to describe the structure of a protein by comparing predictions directly with experimental crystallographic maps. In many cases, AlphaFold predictions matched experimental maps remarkably closely. In other cases, even very high-confidence predictions differed from experimental maps on a global scale through distortion and domain orientation, and on a local scale in backbone and side-chain conformation. We suggest considering AlphaFold predictions as exceptionally useful hypotheses. We further suggest that it is important to consider the confidence in prediction when interpreting AlphaFold predictions and to carry out experimental structure determination to verify structural details, particularly those that involve interactions not included in the prediction.



3101 Biochemistry and Cell Biology, 31 Biological Sciences, Generic health relevance

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Nat Methods

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Springer Science and Business Media LLC
Wellcome Trust (209407/Z/17/Z)
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (P01GM063210)