Learning Protein Structure with a Differentiable Simulator

Sep 27, 2018 ICLR 2019 Conference Blind Submission readers: everyone Show Bibtex
  • Abstract: The Boltzmann distribution is a natural model for many systems, from brains to materials and biomolecules, but is often of limited utility for fitting data because Monte Carlo algorithms are unable to simulate it in available time. This gap between the expressive capabilities and sampling practicalities of energy-based models is exemplified by the protein folding problem, since energy landscapes underlie contemporary knowledge of protein biophysics but computer simulations are challenged to fold all but the smallest proteins from first principles. In this work we aim to bridge the gap between the expressive capacity of energy functions and the practical capabilities of their simulators by using an unrolled Monte Carlo simulation as a model for data. We compose a neural energy function with a novel and efficient simulator based on Langevin dynamics to build an end-to-end-differentiable model of atomic protein structure given amino acid sequence information. We introduce techniques for stabilizing backpropagation under long roll-outs and demonstrate the model's capacity to make multimodal predictions and to, in some cases, generalize to unobserved protein fold types when trained on a large corpus of protein structures.
  • Keywords: generative models, simulators, molecular modeling, proteins, structured prediction
  • TL;DR: We use an unrolled simulator as an end-to-end differentiable model of protein structure and show it can (sometimes) hierarchically generalize to unseen fold topologies.
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