Properly scoring protein-protein docking models to single out the correct ones is an open challenge, also object of assessment in CAPRI (Critical Assessment of PRedicted Interactions), a community-wide blind docking experiment. We introduced in the field CONSRANK (CONSensus RANKing), the first pure consensus method. Also available as a web server, CONSRANK ranks docking models in an ensemble based on their ability to match the most frequent inter-residue contacts in it. We have been blindly testing CONSRANK in all the latest CAPRI rounds, where we showed it to perform competitively with the state-of-the-art energy and knowledge-based scoring functions. More recently, we developed Clust-CONSRANK, an algorithm introducing a contact-based clustering of the models as a preliminary step of the CONSRANK scoring process.
In the latest CASP13-CAPRI joint experiment, we participated as scorers with a novel pipeline, combining both our scoring tools, CONSRANK and Clust-CONSRANK, with our interface analysis tool COCOMAPS. Selection of the 10 models for submission was guided by the strength of the emerging consensus, and their final ranking was assisted by results of the interface analysis.
As a result of the above approach, we were by far the first scorer in the CASP13-CAPRI top-1 ranking, having high/medium quality models ranked at the top-1 position for the majority of targets (11 out of the total 19). We were also the first scorer in the top-10 ranking, on a par with another group, and the second scorer in the top-5 ranking. Further, we topped the ranking relative to the prediction of binding interfaces, among all the scorers and predictors. Using the CASP13-CAPRI targets as case studies, we illustrate here in detail the approach we adopted.
Introducing some flexibility in the final model selection and ranking, as well as differentiating the adopted scoring approach depending on the targets were the key assets for our highly successful performance, as compared to previous CAPRI rounds. The approach we propose is entirely based on methods made available to the community and could thus be reproduced by any user.