Skip to Main Content
Prediction of binding sites from sequence can significantly help toward determining the function of uncharacterized proteins on a genomic scale. The task is highly challenging due to the enormous amount of alternative candidate configurations. Previous research has only considered this prediction problem starting from 3D information. When starting from sequence alone, only methods that predict the bonding state of selected residues are available. The sole exception consists of pattern-based approaches, which rely on very specific motifs and cannot be applied to discover truly novel sites. We develop new algorithmic ideas based on structured-output learning for determining transition-metal-binding sites coordinated by cysteines and histidines. The inference step (retrieving the best scoring output) is intractable for general output types (i.e., general graphs). However, under the assumption that no residue can coordinate more than one metal ion, we prove that metal binding has the algebraic structure of a matroid, allowing us to employ a very efficient greedy algorithm. We test our predictor in a highly stringent setting where the training set consists of protein chains belonging to SCOP folds different from the ones used for accuracy estimation. In this setting, our predictor achieves 56 percent precision and 60 percent recall in the identification of ligand-ion bonds.