The resources provided by NCBI for studying the three-dimensional (3D) structures of proteins center around two databases: the Molecular Modeling Database (MMDB), which provides structural information about individual proteins; and the Conserved Domain Database (CDD), which provides a directory of sequence and structure alignments representing conserved functional domains within proteins (CDs). Together, these two databases allow scientists to retrieve and view structures, find structurally similar proteins to a protein of interest, and identify conserved functional sites. To enable scientists to accomplish these tasks, NCBI has integrated MMDB and CDD into the Entrez retrieval system. In addition, structures can be found by BLAST, because sequences derived from MMDB structures have been included in the BLAST databases. Once a protein structure has been identified, the domains within the protein, as well as domain “neighbors” (i.e., those with similar structure) can be found. For novel data not yet included in Entrez, there are separate search services available. Protein structures can be visualized using Cn3D, an interactive 3D graphic modeling tool. Details of the structure, such as ligand-binding sites, can be scrutinized and highlighted. Cn3D can also display multiple sequence alignments based on sequence and/or structural similarity among related sequences, 3D domains, or members of a CDD family. Cn3D images and alignments can be manipulated easily and exported to other applications for presentation or further analysis.
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