Principal component and clustering analysis on molecular dynamics data of the ribosomal L11 center dot 23S subdomain
With improvements in computer speed and algorithm efficiency, MD simulations are sampling larger amounts of molecular and biomolecular conformations. Being able to qualitatively and quantitatively sift these conformations into meaningful groups is a difficult and important task, especially when considering the structure-activity paradigm. Here we present a study that combines two popular techniques, principal component (PC) analysis and clustering, for revealing major conformational changes that occur in molecular dynamics (MD) simulations. Specifically, we explored how clustering different PC subspaces effects the resulting clusters versus clustering the complete trajectory data. As a case example, we used the trajectory data from an explicitly solvated simulation of a bacteria's L11 center dot 23S ribosomal subdomain, which is a target of thiopeptide antibiotics. Clustering was performed, using K-means and average-linkage algorithms, on data involving the first two to the first five PC subspace dimensions. For the average-linkage algorithm we found that data-point membership, cluster shape, and cluster size depended on the selected PC subspace data. In contrast, K-means provided very consistent results regardless of the selected subspace. Since we present results on a single model system, generalization concerning the clustering of different PC subspaces of other molecular systems is currently premature. However, our hope is that this study illustrates a) the complexities in selecting the appropriate clustering algorithm, b) the complexities in interpreting and validating their results, and c) by combining PC analysis with subsequent clustering valuable dynamic and conformational information can be obtained.