The structure of a protein gives more insight on the protein function than its amino acid sequence. Protein structure analysis and comparison are important for understanding the evolutionary relationships among proteins, predicting protein functions, and predicting protein folding. Proteins are formed by two basic regular 3D structural patterns, called Secondary Structures (SSs): helices and sheets. A structural motif is a compact 3D protein block referring to a small specific combination of secondary structural elements, which appears in a variety of molecules. In this paper we compare a few approaches for motif retrieval based on the Generalized Hough Transform (GHT). A primary technique is to adopt the single SS as structural primitives; alternatives are to adopt a SSs pair as primitive structural element, or a SSs triplet, and so on up-to an entire motif. The richer the primitive, the higher the time for pre-analysis and search, and the simpler the inspection process on the parameter space for analyzing the peaks. Performance comparisons, in terms of precision and computation time, are here presented considering the retrieval of motifs composed by three to five SSs for more than 15 million searches. The approach can be easily applied to the retrieval of greater blocks, up to protein domains, or even entire proteins.
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