Automated orientation of water molecules in neutron crystallographic structures of proteins

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The structure and function of proteins are strongly affected by the surrounding solvent water, for example through hydrogen bonds and the hydrophobic effect. These interactions depend not only on the position, but also on the orientation, of the water molecules around the protein. Therefore, it is often vital to know the detailed orientations of the surrounding ordered water molecules. Such information can be obtained by neutron crystallography. However, it is tedious and time-consuming to determine the correct orientation of every water molecule in a structure (there are typically several hundred of them), which is presently performed by manual evaluation. Here, a method has been developed that reliably automates the orientation of a water molecules in a simple and relatively fast way. Firstly, a quantitative quality measure, the real-space correlation coefficient, was selected, together with a threshold that allows the identification of water molecules that are oriented. Secondly, the refinement procedure was optimized by varying the refinement method and parameters, thus finding settings that yielded the best results in terms of time and performance. It turned out to be favourable to employ only the neutron data and a fixed protein structure when reorienting the water molecules. Thirdly, a method has been developed that identifies and reorients inadequately oriented water molecules systematically and automatically. The method has been tested on three proteins, galectin-3C, rubredoxin and inorganic pyrophosphatase, and it is shown that it yields improved orientations of the water molecules for all three proteins in a shorter time than manual model building. It also led to an increased number of hydrogen bonds involving water molecules for all proteins.


Enheter & grupper
Externa organisationer
  • European Spallation Source ERIC, Denmark
  • Lund University

Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ) – OBLIGATORISK

  • Strukturbiologi


Sidor (från-till)1025-1032
Antal sidor8
TidskriftActa Crystallographica Section D: Structural Biology
StatusPublished - 2020
Peer review utfördJa