COILED COIL tutorial

Aims of the tutorial

This tutorial shows how to launch the coiled_coil mode implemented in ARCIMBOLDO_LITE1 in order to solve ab initio a 128 aminoacids structure at 2.5Å and analyse the output of the program. This example uses the ARCIMBOLDO_LITE version released in DATE trough CCP4/our website.

Data tutorial:

Experimental details

Test data for our tutorial is the crystal structure of the vDED coiled coil domain from human BAP29. BAP29 is a protein that resides in the endoplasmic reticulum and is involved in regulating intracellular sorting of several membrane proteins. The structure is composed by 2 α-helices wrapped around each other to form a coiled coil domain, and is deposited in the Protein Data Bank under the PDB code 4W7T2.

Details of the data are summarized in the following table:

Details of data Details of data

Figure 1. Cartoon representation of PDB entry 4W7Y. This figure was prepared using Pymol3.

Step by Step tutorial

For this tutorial we will need only the reflection file in two formats (.mtz and .hkl). All required files can be downloaded here. The model to search will be ideal helices that are defined internally in the program just from its length. After downloading ARCIMBOLDO_LITE (see instructions here), you are ready to follow this tutorial.


We need 3 files in order to run ARCIMBOLDO_LITE:

  • .mtz: CCP4 binary format reflections file format
  • .hkl: SHELX ASCII format reflections file format
  • .bor: input parameters file for ARCIMBOLDO_LITE
  • Configuration .bor file:

    The configuration file look like follows:

    distribute_computing: multiprocessing
    setup_file: /path/to/setup.bor
    working_directory: /path/to/working_directory
    mtz_path: %(working_directory)s/data.mtz
    hkl_path: %(working_directory)s/data.hkl
    name_job: 4w7y
    molecular_weight: 15757
    number_of_component: 1
    f_label: FOBS
    sigf_label: SIGFOBS
    fragment_to_search: 2
    helix_length: 18
    shelxe_line = -m10 -a8 -s0.6 -v0 -t10 -Q -I10 -y2.50 -e2.20 -f
    coiled_coil: true
    path_local_phaser: /path/to/phaser
    path_local_shelxe: /path/to/shelxe

    The [CONNECTION] section specifies the computing system used and the file containing the general configuration. The job can be run on a single machine (in multiprocessing) or in a local or remote grid of computers.If you want to run the job in multiprocessing you just have to change in the .bor file that you downloaded the paths of the working directory, phaser and shelxe.

    The [GENERAL] section contains the .mtz and .hkl file paths as well as the working directory where results will be written.

    In the [ARCIMBOLDO] section all parameterization for the job is specified:

  • The name of the job that will be also the name of the output .html file.
  • The molecular weight, number of components and estimated rmsd should be defined for the PHASER search. The default value of the rmsd for model helices is 0.2 Å, but you can increase this value.
  • It is also required to provide label identification in the .mtz file provided for either the amplitudes (F) and their sigmas (SIGF) or the intensities (I) and their sigmas (SIGI) used. If available, intensities are preferred. An .mtz file is a binary file but programs like MTZDMP available from the CCP44 suite can display their content.
  • It is mandatory to define the number of helices to search and their length. In this tutorial ARCIMBOLDO_LITE will search four two of an ideal polyalanine helix of 18 residues. In general, a secondary structure prediction of your sequence can help you to choose these parameters.
  • The shelxe_line command line for the SHELXE steps in the algorithm can be defined. If unset, resolution-dependent default values and a specific parameterization for coiled coils will be used.
  • It is important to activate the mode coiled_coil that entails:
    • RMSD set to 0.2Å (rmsd: 0.2)
    • VRMS calculation in the refinement step to optimize the RMSD parameter in order to maximize the LLG.
    • Disable placing pairs of tNCS related helices, as the internal periodicity of a single helix makes difficult to differentiate genuine intermolecular tNCS from Patterson artefacts. If no solution is achieved, the alternative should be tried.
    • Activation of PHASER’s packing filter at translation, so at least one translated solution will pass the packing check.
    • Generate and probe reverse helices. At resolution below 2 Å it was frequently observed that placement of the first helices occasionally took place in the correct position but in reversed direction and at low resolution are not distinguishable from the PHASER figures of merit.
    • Final verification step, an additional step that generates perturbations of the substructure leading to the best solution andcompares their scores before and after extension. As the reverse helices this will be only activated at resolution worse than 2Å.
    • SHELXE with helical sliding, which improves the autotracing of the coiled coil structures.

    Finally, in the [LOCAL] section, the paths to PHASER and SHELXE are set. This is only required if you are in multiprocessing mode.


    You can run the program interactively, having the output displayed on the screen or do it in background, redirecting an input file and passing the output to a .log file.

    1. Interactively:

    ARCIMBOLDO_LITE 4w7y.bor

    2. In background:

    nohup ARCIMBOLDO_LITE 4w7y.bor >& logfile.log;
    Output and Results

    ARCIMBOLDO_LITE will generate several files related to the PHASER and SHELXE runs. For each step in the search (rotation, translation, packing, etc), there will be a folder with the output.

    The html output file summarizes your job instructions and results. This file is updated during the run and can be opened in an internet browser.

    At the beginning the full configuration file will be reported showing the parametrization that the user configured as well as the defaults that remained unchanged.

    A brief summary of the data follows, showing the input space group, cell dimensions, resolution and number of reflections.

    After this summary, there is a table for each fragment in which the rotation clusters found are listed along with their figures of merit at each step of the process. The tables are updated in real time and can serve to judge parameterization.

    crystallographic information

    Figure 2. Interactive table with the figures of merit from PHASER5 and SHELXE6 for each rotation clusters.

    After the table you can observe the backtrace and figures of merit for the best solution, in this case the structure is solved with a CC of 52.53% and 118 residues traced. Finally, the last section of the html contains links to access the best scoring solution: the .pdb of the traced structure and its map in .phs format.

    crystallographic information

    Figure 3. Backtracing of the model that leads to a correct solution.


    1. Sammito, M. et al. Acta Crystallogr. D71, 1921-30 (2015).

    2. Quistgaard, EM. Chem Commun (Camb). 50(95), 14995-7 (2014).

    3. The PyMOL Molecular Graphics System, Version Schrödinger, LLC.

    4. Winn, M.D. et al. Acta Crystallogr. D67, 235-242 (2011).

    5. McCoy, A.J. et al. J. Appl. Crystallogr. 40, 658-674 (2007).

    6. Sheldrick, G.M. Acta Crystallogr. D66, 479-485 (2010).