Date of Award

Spring 3-21-2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Computer Science

First Advisor

Dr. Yan-Qing Zhang

Second Advisor

Dr. Robert Harrison

Third Advisor

Dr. Raj Sunderraman

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Yichuan Zhao


The automatic prediction of protein three dimensional structures from its amino acid sequence has become one of the most important and researched fields in bioinformatics. As models are not experimental structures determined with known accuracy but rather with prediction it’s vital to determine estimates of models quality. We attempt to solve this problem using machine learning techniques and information from both the sequence and structure of the protein. The goal is to generate a machine that understands structures from PDB and when given a new model, predicts whether it belongs to the same class as the PDB structures (correct or incorrect protein models). Different subsets of PDB (protein data bank) are considered for evaluating the prediction potential of the machine learning methods. Here we show two such machines, one using SVM (support vector machines) and another using fuzzy decision trees (FDT). First using a preliminary encoding style SVM could get around 70% in protein model quality assessment accuracy, and improved Fuzzy Decision Tree (IFDT) could reach above 80% accuracy. For the purpose of reducing computational overhead multiprocessor environment and basic feature selection method is used in machine learning algorithm using SVM.

Next an enhanced scheme is introduced using new encoding style. In the new style, information like amino acid substitution matrix, polarity, secondary structure information and relative distance between alpha carbon atoms etc is collected through spatial traversing of the 3D structure to form training vectors. This guarantees that the properties of alpha carbon atoms that are close together in 3D space and thus interacting are used in vector formation. With the use of fuzzy decision tree, we obtained a training accuracy around 90%. There is significant improvement compared to previous encoding technique in prediction accuracy and execution time. This outcome motivates to continue to explore effective machine learning algorithms for accurate protein model quality assessment.

Finally these machines are tested using CASP8 and CASP9 templates and compared with other CASP competitors, with promising results. We further discuss the importance of model quality assessment and other information from proteins that could be considered for the same.