Applying forces to elastic network models of large biomolecules using a haptic feedback device

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Elastic network models of biomolecules have proved to be relatively good at predicting global conformational changes particularly in large systems. Software that facilitates rapid and intuitive exploration of conformational change in elastic network models of large biomolecules in response to externally applied forces would therefore be of considerable use, particularly if the forces mimic those that arise in the interaction with a functional ligand. We have developed software that enables a user to apply forces to individual atoms of an elastic network model of a biomolecule through a haptic feedback device or a mouse. With a haptic feedback device the user feels the response to the applied force whilst seeing the biomolecule deform on the screen. Prior to the interactive session normal mode analysis is performed, or pre-calculated normal mode eigenvalues and eigenvectors are loaded. For large molecules this allows the memory and number of calculations to be reduced by employing the idea of the important subspace, a relatively small space of the first M lowest frequency normal mode eigenvectors within which a large proportion of the total fluctuation occurs. Using this approach it was possible to study GroEL on a standard PC as even though only 2.3% of the total number of eigenvectors could be used, they accounted for 50% of the total fluctuation. User testing has shown that the haptic version allows for much more rapid and intuitive exploration of the molecule than the mouse version.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)203-211
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Computer-Aided Molecular Design
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2011


  • Force feedback
  • Protein flexibility
  • Normal mode analysis

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