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Deep clustering of protein folding simulations...

by Debsindhu Bhowmik, Shang Gao, Michael T Young, Arvind Ramanathan
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BMC Bioinformatics
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Background: We examine the problem of clustering biomolecular simulations using deep learning techniques. Since biomolecular simulation datasets are inherently high dimensional, it is often necessary to build low dimensional representations that can be used to extract quantitative insights into the atomistic mechanisms that underlie complex biological processes.

Results: We use a convolutional variational autoencoder (CVAE) to learn low dimensional, biophysically relevant latent features from long time-scale protein folding simulations in an unsupervised manner. We demonstrate our approach on three model protein folding systems, namely Fs-peptide (14 μs aggregate sampling), villin head piece (single trajectory of 125 μs) and β- β- α (BBA) protein (223 + 102 μs sampling across two independent trajectories). In these systems, we show that the CVAE latent features learned correspond to distinct conformational substates along the protein folding pathways. The CVAE model predicts, on average, nearly 89% of all contacts within the folding trajectories correctly, while being able to extract folded, unfolded and potentially misfolded states in an unsupervised manner. Further, the CVAE model can be used to learn latent features of protein folding that can be applied to other independent trajectories, making it particularly attractive for identifying intrinsic features that correspond to conformational substates that share similar structural features.

Conclusions: Together, we show that the CVAE model can quantitatively describe complex biophysical processes such as protein folding.