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Heping Zheng
Total Earnings
PHD Other - Sciences University of Virginia 2009
Projects & Publications
Validation of metal-binding sites in macromolecular structures with the CheckMyMetal web server
01 Mar 2012 to 01 Jan 2014 Link
Metals have vital roles in both the mechanism and architecture of biological macromolecules. Yet structures of metal-containing macromolecules in which metals are misidentified and/or suboptimally modeled are abundant in the Protein Data Bank (PDB). This shows the need for a diagnostic tool to identify and correct such modeling problems with metal-binding environments. The CheckMyMetal (CMM) web server ( is a sophisticated, user-friendly web-based method to evaluate metal-binding sites in macromolecular structures using parameters derived from 7,350 metal-binding sites observed in a benchmark data set of 2,304 high-resolution crystal structures. The protocol outlines how the CMM server can be used to detect geometric and other irregularities in the structures of metal-binding sites, as well as how it can alert researchers to potential errors in metal assignment. The protocol also gives practical guidelines for correcting problematic sites by modifying the metal-binding environment and/or redefining metal identity in the PDB file. Several examples where this has led to meaningful results are described in the ANTICIPATED RESULTS section. CMM was designed for a broad audience--biomedical researchers studying metal-containing proteins and nucleic acids--but it is equally well suited for structural biologists validating new structures during modeling or refinement. The CMM server takes the coordinates of a metal-containing macromolecule structure in the PDB format as input and responds within a few seconds for a typical protein structure with 2-5 metal sites and a few hundred amino acids.
Magnesium-binding architectures in RNA crystal structures: validation, binding preferences, classification and motif detection
01 Jan 2014 to 01 Jan 2015 Link
The ubiquitous presence of magnesium ions in RNA has long been recognized as a key factor governing RNA folding, and is crucial for many diverse functions of RNA molecules. In this work, Mg(2+)-binding architectures in RNA were systematically studied using a database of RNA crystal structures from the Protein Data Bank (PDB). Due to the abundance of poorly modeled or incorrectly identified Mg(2+) ions, the set of all sites was comprehensively validated and filtered to identify a benchmark dataset of 15 334 'reliable' RNA-bound Mg(2+) sites. The normalized frequencies by which specific RNA atoms coordinate Mg(2+) were derived for both the inner and outer coordination spheres. A hierarchical classification system of Mg(2+) sites in RNA structures was designed and applied to the benchmark dataset, yielding a set of 41 types of inner-sphere and 95 types of outer-sphere coordinating patterns. This classification system has also been applied to describe six previously reported Mg(2+)-binding motifs and detect them in new RNA structures. Investigation of the most populous site types resulted in the identification of seven novel Mg(2+)-binding motifs, and all RNA structures in the PDB were screened for the presence of these motifs.
Activities & Interests

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