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We present a mathematical model and exact algorithm for optimally aligning protein structures using the DALI scoring model. This scoring model is based on comparing the interresidue distance matrices of proteins and is used in the popular DALI software tool, a heuristic method for protein structure alignment. Our model and algorithm extend an integer linear programming approach that has been previously applied for the related, but simpler, contact map overlap problem. To this end, we introduce a novel type of constraint that handles negative score values and relax it in a Lagrangian fashion. The new algorithm, which we call DALIX, is applicable to any distance matrix-based scoring scheme. We also review options that allow to consider fewer pairs of interresidue distances explicitly because their large number hinders the optimization process. Using four known data sets of varying structural similarity, we compute many provably score-optimal DALI alignments. This allowed, for the first time, to evaluate the DALI heuristic in sound mathematical terms. The results indicate that DALI usually computes optimal or close to optimal alignments. However, we detect a subset of small proteins for which DALI fails to generate any significant alignment, although such alignments do exist.
Computational Biology and Bioinformatics, IEEE/ACM Transactions on (Volume:10 , Issue: 1 )
Date of Publication: Jan.-Feb. 2013