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Automatic and Accurate Ligand Structure Determination Guided by Cryo-Electron Microscopy Maps

By March 6, 2023No Comments

Advances in cryo-electron microscopy (cryoEM) and deep-learning guided protein structure prediction have expedited structural studies of protein complexes. However, methods for accurately determining ligand conformations are lacking. In this manuscript, we develop EMERALD, a tool for automatically determining ligand structures guided by medium-resolution cryoEM density. We show this method is robust at predicting ligands along with surrounding side chains in maps as low as 4.5 Å local resolution. Combining this with a measure of placement confidence and running on all protein/ligand structures in the EMDB, we show that 57% of ligands replicate the deposited model, 16% confidently find alternate conformations, 22% have ambiguous density where multiple conformations might be present, and 5% are incorrectly placed. For five cases where our approach finds an alternate conformation with high confidence, high-resolution crystal structures validate our placement. EMERALD and the resulting analysis should prove critical in using cryoEM to solve protein-ligand complexes.