Accounting for loop flexibility during protein-protein docking

Karine Bastard, Chantal Prévost, Martin Zacharias

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Scopus citations


Although reliable docking can now be achieved for systems that do not undergo important induced conformational change upon association, the presence of flexible surface loops, which must adapt to the steric and electrostatic properties of a partner, generally presents a major obstacle. We report here the first docking method that allows large loop movements during a systematic exploration of the possible arrangements of the two partners in terms of position and rotation. Our strategy consists in taking into account an ensemble of possible loop conformations by a multi-copy representation within a reduced protein model. The docking process starts from regularly distributed positions and orientations of the ligand around the whole receptor. Each starting configuration is submitted to energy minimization during which the best-fitting loop conformation is selected based on the mean-field theory. Trials were carried out on proteins with significant differences in the main-chain conformation of the binding loop between isolated form and complexed form, which were docked to their partner considered in their bound form. The method is able to predict complexes very close to the crystal complex both in terms of relative position of the two partners and of the geometry of the flexible loop. We also show that introducing loop flexibility on the isolated protein form during systematic docking largely improves the predictions of relative position of the partners in comparison with rigid-body docking.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)956-969
Number of pages14
JournalProteins: Structure, Function and Bioinformatics
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Docking minimization
  • Flexible protein-protein docking
  • Loop flexibility
  • Mean-field theory
  • Reduced protein models


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