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Protein chemical shifts are routinely used to augment molecular mechanics force fields in protein structure simulations, with weights of the chemical shift restraints determined empirically. These weights, however, might not be an optimal descriptor of a given protein structure and predictive model, and a bias is introduced which might result in incorrect structures. In the inferential structure determination framework, both the unknown structure and the disagreement between experimental and back-calculated data are formulated as a joint probability distribution, thus utilizing the full information content of the data. Here, we present the formulation of such a probability distribution where the error in chemical shift prediction is described by either a Gaussian or Cauchy distribution. The methodology is demonstrated and compared to a set of empirically weighted potentials through Markov chain Monte Carlo simulations of three small proteins (ENHD, Protein G and the SMN Tudor Domain) using the PROFASI force field and the chemical shift predictor CamShift. Using a clustering-criterion for identifying the best structure, together with the addition of a solvent exposure scoring term, the simulations suggests that sampling both the structure and the uncertainties in chemical shift prediction leads more accurate structures compared to conventional methods using empirical determined weights. The Cauchy distribution, using either sampled uncertainties or predetermined weights, did, however, result in overall better convergence to the native fold, suggesting that both types of distribution might be useful in different aspects of the protein structure prediction.
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Figures of protein structures discussed in the main text and example phaistos settings