Searching for likeness in a database of macromolecular complexes

Jeffrey R. Van Voorst, Barry C. Finzel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A software tool and workflow based on distance geometry is presented that can be used to search for local similarity in substructures in a comprehensive database of experimentally derived macromolecular structure. The method does not rely on fold annotation, specific secondary structure assignments, or sequence homology and may be used to locate compound substructures of multiple segments spanning different macromolecules that share a queried backbone geometry. This generalized substructure searching capability is intended to allow users to play an active part in exploring the role specific substructures play in larger protein domains, quaternary assemblies of proteins, and macromolecular complexes of proteins and polynucleotides. The user may select any portion or portions of an existing structure or complex to serve as a template for searching, and other structures that share the same structural features are identified, retrieved and overlaid to emphasize substructural likeness. Matching structures may be compared using a variety of integrated tools including molecular graphics for structure visualization and matching substructure sequence logos. A number of examples are provided that illustrate how generalized substructure searching may be used to understand both the similarity, and individuality of specific macromolecular structures. Web-based access to our substructure searching services is freely available at

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2634-2647
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Chemical Information and Modeling
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 28 2013


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