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Accurately refining biomacromolecules using a quantum-chemical method is challenging because the cost of a quantum-chemical calculation scales approximately as nm, where n is the number of atoms and m (≥3) is based on the quantum method of choice. This fundamental problem means that quantum-chemical calculations become intractable when the size of the system requires more computational resources than are available. In the development of the software package called Q|R, this issue is referred to as Q|R#1. A divide-and-conquer approach has been developed that fragments the atomic model into small manageable pieces in order to solve Q|R#1. Firstly, the atomic model of a crystal structure is analyzed to detect noncovalent interactions between residues, and the results of the analysis are represented as an interaction graph. Secondly, a graph-clustering algorithm is used to partition the interaction graph into a set of clusters in such a way as to minimize disruption to the noncovalent interaction network. Thirdly, the environment surrounding each individual cluster is analyzed and any residue that is interacting with a particular cluster is assigned to the buffer region of that particular cluster. A fragment is defined as a cluster plus its buffer region. The gradients for all atoms from each of the fragments are computed, and only the gradients from each cluster are combined to create the total gradients. A quantum-based refinement is carried out using the total gradients as chemical restraints. In order to validate this interaction graph-based fragmentation approach in Q|R, the entire atomic model of an amyloid cross-β spine crystal structure (PDB entry 2oNA) was refined.

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