Skip to Main Content
Obtaining a structural characterization of the biologically active (native) state of a protein is a long standing problem in computational biology. The high dimensionality of the conformational space and ruggedness of the associated energy surface are key challenges to algorithms in search of an ensemble of low-energy decoy conformations relevant for the native state. As the native structure does not often correspond to the global minimum energy, diversity is key. We present a memetic evolutionary algorithm to sample a diverse ensemble of conformations that represent low-energy local minima in the protein energy surface. Conformations in the algorithm are members of an evolving population. The molecular fragment replacement technique is employed to obtain children from parent conformations. A greedy search maps a child conformation to its nearest local minimum. Resulting minima and parent conformations are merged and truncated back to the initial population size based on potential energies. Results show that the additional minimization is key to obtaining a diverse ensemble of decoys, circumvent premature convergence to sub-optimal regions in the conformational space, and approach the native structure with IRMSDs comparable to state-of-the-art decoy sampling methods.