A Florida State University research team has won first place in an international competition of scientists who use powerful biophysical and computational tools to study the structure and interactions of complex biomolecules such as proteins and DNA.
The FSU team of Professor Huan-Xiang Zhou and postdoctoral researcher Sanbo Qin ranked first in the latest round of Critical Assessment of Predicted Interactions (CAPRI), a semiannual competition sponsored by the European Molecular Biology Laboratory and European Biotechnology Institute.
“It is very gratifying that we are competitive against the best structure predictors around the world,” said Zhou, who serves on the faculty of FSU’s School of Computational Science and department of physics. “Now the pressure is on us to continue doing well in future rounds of CAPRI.”
Determining three-dimensional structures of biomolecules is slow and time-consuming work. Therefore, scientists all over the world are working to develop ways to use computers to predict such structures. This requires a solid understanding of the chemical and physical principles underlying molecular structures.
In each round of CAPRI, research groups submit structural predictions for a specific biomolecule; these predictions then are evaluated by comparing them to the actual structure as determined through experimentation. (By design, the experimental structure is not known to the predictors.) In the latest round, one of Zhou and Qin’s structures scored the best among 348 predictions submitted by 36 research groups from around the world.