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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Sculpting proteins interactively: continual energy minimization embedded in a graphical modeling system.

We describe a new paradigm for modeling proteins in interactive computer graphics systems--continual maintenance of a physically valid representation, combined with direct user control and visualization. This is achieved by a fast algorithm for energy minimization, capable of real-time performance on all atoms of a small protein, plus graphically specified user tugs. The modeling system, called Sculpt, rigidly constrains bond lengths, bond angles, and planar groups (similar to existing interactive modeling programs), while it applies elastic restraints to minimize the potential energy due to torsions, hydrogen bonds, and van der Waals and electrostatic interactions (similar to existing batch minimization programs), and user-specified springs. The graphical interface can show bad and/or favorable contacts, and individual energy terms can be turned on or off to determine their effects and interactions. Sculpt finds a local minimum of the total energy that satisfies all the constraints using an augmented Lagrange-multiplier method; calculation time increases only linearly with the number of atoms because the matrix of constraint gradients is sparse and banded. On a 100-MHz MIPS R4000 processor (Silicon Graphics Indigo), Sculpt achieves 11 updates per second on a 20-residue fragment and 2 updates per second on an 80-residue protein, using all atoms except non-H-bonding hydrogens, and without electrostatic interactions. Applications of Sculpt are described: to reverse the direction of bundle packing in a designed 4-helix bundle protein, to fold up a 2-stranded beta-ribbon into an approximate beta-barrel, and to design the sequence and conformation of a 30-residue peptide that mimics one partner of a protein subunit interaction. Computer models that are both interactive and physically realistic (within the limitations of a given force field) have 2 significant advantages: (1) they make feasible the modeling of very large changes (such as needed for de novo design), and (2) they help the user understand how different energy terms interact to stabilize a given conformation. The Sculpt paradigm combines many of the best features of interactive graphical modeling, energy minimization, and actual physical models, and we propose it as an especially productive way to use current and future increases in computer speed.[1]


  1. Sculpting proteins interactively: continual energy minimization embedded in a graphical modeling system. Surles, M.C., Richardson, J.S., Richardson, D.C., Brooks, F.P. Protein Sci. (1994) [Pubmed]
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