Improved prediction for N-termini of α-helices using empirical information

Claire L. Wilson, Paul E. Boardman, Andrew J. Doig, Simon J. Hubbard

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The prediction of the secondary structure of proteins from their amino acid sequences remains a key component of many approaches to the protein folding problem. The most abundant form of regular secondary structure in proteins is the α-helix, in which specific residue preferences exist at the N-terminal locations. Propensities derived from these observed amino acid frequencies in the Protein Data Bank (PDB) data-base correlate well with experimental free energies measured for residues at different N-terminal positions in alanine-based peptides. We report a novel method to exploit this data to improve protein secondary structure prediction through identification of the correct N-terminal sequences in α-helices, based on existing popular methods for secondary structure prediction. With this algorithm, the number of correctly predicted α-helix start positions was improved from 30% to 38%, while the overall prediction accuracy (Q3) remained the same, using cross-validated testing. Although the algorithm was developed and tested on multiple sequence alignment-based secondary structure predictions, it was also able to improve the predictions of start locations by methods that use single sequences to make their predictions. Furthermore, the residue frequencies at N-terminal positions of the improved predictions better reflect those seen at the N-terminal positions of α-helices in proteins. This has implications for areas such as comparative modeling, where a more accurate prediction of the N-terminal regions of α-helices should benefit attempts to model adjacent loop regions. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)322-330
    Number of pages8
    JournalProteins: Structure, Function and Bioinformatics
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2004


    • α-helix
    • N-cap
    • N-terminus
    • Secondary structure
    • Structure prediction


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