Central to protein biology is the understanding of how structural elements give rise to observed function. The surfeit of protein structural data enables development of computational methods to systematically derive rules governing structural-functional relationships. However, performance of these methods depends critically on the choice of protein structural representation. Most current methods rely on features that are manually selected based on knowledge about protein structures. These are often general-purposed but not optimized for the specific problem of interest.
In this project, we develop a general framework that applies 3D convolutional neural network (3DCNN) technology to structure-based protein analysis. The framework automatically extracts task-specific features from the raw atom distribution, driven by supervised labels. As a pilot study, we use our network to analyze local protein microenvironments surrounding the 20 amino acids, and predict the amino acids most compatible with environments within a protein structure. To further validate the power of our method, we construct two amino acid substitution matrices from the prediction statistics and use them to predict effects of mutations in T4 lysozyme structures.