The Shadow Map: A General Contact Definition for Capturing the Dynamics of Biomolecular Folding and Function
Noel, Jeffrey K.; Whitford, Paul C.; Onuchic, José N.
Structure-based models (SBMs) are simplified models of the biomolecular dynamics that arise from funneled energy landscapes. We recently introduced an all-atom SBM that explicitly represents the atomic geometry of a biomolecule. While this initial study showed the robustness of the all-atom SBM Hamiltonian to changes in many of the energetic parameters, an important aspect, which has not been explored previously, is the definition of native interactions. In this study, we propose a general definition for generating atomically grained contact maps called “Shadow”. The Shadow algorithm initially considers all atoms within a cutoff distance and then, controlled by a screening parameter, discards the occluded contacts. We show that this choice of contact map is not only well behaved for protein folding, since it produces consistently cooperative folding behavior in SBMs but also desirable for exploring the dynamics of macromolecular assemblies since, it distributes energy similarly between RNAs and proteins despite their disparate internal packing. All-atom structure-based models employing Shadow contact maps provide a general framework for exploring the geometrical features of biomolecules, especially the connections between folding and function.