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  • The Inria's Research Teams produce an annual Activity Report presenting their activities and their results of the year. These reports include the team members, the scientific program, the software developed by the team and the new results of the year. The report also describes the grants, contracts and the activities of dissemination and teaching. Finally, the report gives the list of publications of the year.

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Section: New Results

Modeling the flexibility of macro-molecules

Keywords: protein, flexibility, collective coordinate, conformational sampling dimensionality reduction.

Characterizing molecular flexibility by combining lRMSD measures

Participants : F. Cazals, R. Tetley.

The root mean square deviation (RMSD) and the least RMSD are two widely used similarity measures in structural bioinformatics. Yet, they stem from global comparisons, possibly obliterating locally conserved motifs. We correct these limitations with the so-called combined RMSD [26], which mixes independent lRMSD measures, each computed with its own rigid motion. The combined RMSD is relevant in two main scenarios, namely to compare (quaternary) structures based on motifs defined from the sequence (domains, SSE), and to compare structures based on structural motifs yielded by local structural alignment methods. We illustrate the benefits of combined RMSD over the usual RMSD on three problems, namely (i) the assignment of quaternary structures for hemoglobin (scenario #1), (ii) the calculation of structural phylogenies (case study: class II fusion proteins; scenario #1), and (iii) the analysis of conformational changes based on combined RMSD of rigid structural motifs (case study: one class II fusion protein; scenario #2). Using these, we argue that the combined RMSD is a tool a choice to perform positive and negative discrimination of degree of freedom, with applications to the design of move sets and collective coordinates. Combined RMSD are available within the Structural Bioinformatics Library (http: //

Multiscale analysis of structurally conserved motifs

Participants : F. Cazals, R. Tetley.

This work [25] develops a generic framework to perform a multiscale structural analysis of two structures (homologous proteins, conformations) undergoing conformational changes. Practically, given a seed structural alignment, we identify structural motifs with a hierarchical structure, characterized by three unique properties. First, the hierarchical structure sheds light on the trade-off between size and flexibility. Second, motifs can be combined to perform an overall comparison of the input structures in terms of combined RMSD, an improvement over the classical least RMSD. Third, motifs can be used to seed iterative aligners, and to design hybrid sequence-structure profile HMM characterizing protein families. From the methods standpoint, our framework is reminiscent from the bootstrap and combines concepts from rigidity analysis (distance difference matrices), graph theory, computational geometry (space filling diagrams), and topology (topological persistence). On challenging cases (class II fusion proteins, flexible molecules) we illustrate the ability of our tools to localize conformational changes, shedding light of commonalities of structures which would otherwise appear as radically different. Our tools are available within the Structural Bioinformatics Library ( We anticipate that they will be of interest to perform structural comparisons at large, and for remote homology detection.

Hybrid sequence-structure based HMM models leverage the identification of homologous proteins: the example of class II fusion proteins

Participants : F. Cazals, R. Tetley.

In collaboration with P. Guardado-Calvo, J. Fedry, and F. Rey (Inst. Pasteur Paris, France).

In [27], we present a sequence-structure based method characterizing a set of functionally related proteins exhibiting low sequence identity and loose structural conservation. Given a (small) set of structures, our method consists of three main steps. First, pairwise structural alignments are combined with multi-scale geometric analysis to produce structural motifs i.e. regions structurally more conserved than the whole structures. Second, the sub-sequences of the motifs are used to build profile hidden Markov models (HMM) biased towards the structurally conserved regions. Third, these HMM are used to retrieve from UniProtKB proteins harboring signatures compatible with the function studied, in a bootstrap fashion. We apply these hybrid HMM to investigate two questions related to class II fusion proteins, an especially challenging class since known structures exhibit low sequence identity (less than 15%) and loose structural similarity (of the order of 15A in lRMSD ). In a first step, we compare the performances of our hybrid HMM against those of sequence based HMM. Using various learning sets, we show that both classes of HMM retrieve unique species. The number of unique species reported by both classes of methods are comparable, stressing the novelty brought by our hybrid models. In a second step, we use our models to identify 17 plausible HAP2-GSC1 candidate sequences in 10 different drosophila melanogaster species. These models are not identified by the PFAM family HAP2-GCS1 (PF10699), stressing the ability of our structural motifs to capture signals more subtle than whole Pfam domains. In a more general setting, our method should be of interest for all cases functional families with low sequence identity and loose structural conservation. Our software tools are available from the FunChaT package of the Structural Bioinormatics Library (

Hamiltonian Monte Carlo with boundary reflections, and application to polytope volume calculations

Participants : F. Cazals, A. Chevallier.

In collaboration with S. Pion (Auctus, Inria Bordeaux).

This paper [23] studies HMC with reflections on the boundary of a domain, providing an enhanced alternative to Hit-and-run (HAR) to sample a target distribution in a bounded domain. We make three contributions. First, we provide a convergence bound, paving the way to more precise mixing time analysis. Second, we present a robust implementation based on multi-precision arithmetic – a mandatory ingredient to guarantee exact predicates and robust constructions. Third, we use our HMC random walk to perform polytope volume calculations, using it as an alternative to HAR within the volume algorithm by Cousins and Vempala. The tests, conducted up to dimension 50, show that the HMC RW outperforms HAR.

Wang-Landau Algorithm: an adapted random walk to boost convergence

Participants : F. Cazals, A. Chevallier.

The Wang-Landau (WL) algorithm is a recently developed stochastic algorithm computing densities of states of a physical system. Since its inception, it has been used on a variety of (bio-)physical systems, and in selected cases, its convergence has been proved. The convergence speed of the algorithm is tightly tied to the connectivity properties of the underlying random walk. As such, we propose in [22] an efficient random walk that uses geometrical information to circumvent the following inherent difficulties: avoiding overstepping strata, toning down concentration phenomena in high-dimensional spaces, and accommodating multidimensional distribution. Experiments on various models stress the importance of these improvements to make WL effective in challenging cases. Altogether, these improvements make it possible to compute density of states for regions of the phase space of small biomolecules.