Theoretical and Computational Chemistry

Explore protein conformational space with variational autoencoder

Authors

Abstract

Molecular dynamic (MD) simulations have been actively used in the study of protein structure and function. However, extensive sampling in the protein conformational space requires large computational resources and takes a prohibitive amount of time. In this study, we demonstrated that variational autoencoders (VAEs), a type of deep learning model, can be employed to explore the conformational space of a protein through MD simulations. VAEs are shown to be superior to autoencoders (AEs) through a benchmark study, with low deviation between the training and decoded conformations. Moreover, we show that the learned latent space in the VAE can be used to generate unsampled protein conformations. Additional simulations starting from these generated conformations accelerated the sampling process and explored hidden spaces in the conformational landscape.

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