ICML 2021
Conference paper

Fold2Seq: A Joint Sequence(1D)-Fold(3D) Embedding-based Generative Model for Protein Design

Download paper


Designing novel protein sequences for a desired 3D topological fold is a fundamental yet non-trivial task in protein engineering. Challenges exist due to the complex sequence--fold relationship as well as the difficulties to capture the diversity of the sequences (therefore structures and functions) within a fold. To overcome these challenges, we propose Fold2Seq, a novel transformer-based generative framework for designing protein sequences conditioned on a specific target fold. To model the complex sequence--structure relationship, Fold2Seq jointly learns a sequence embedding using a transformer and a fold embedding from the density of secondary structural elements in 3D voxels. On test sets with single, high-resolution and complete structure inputs for individual folds, our experiments demonstrate improved or comparable performance of Fold2Seq in terms of speed, coverage, and reliability for sequence design, when compared to existing state-of-the-art methods that include data-driven deep generative models and physics-based RosettaDesign. The unique advantages of fold-based Fold2Seq, in comparison to a structure-based deep model and RosettaDesign, become more evident on three additional real-world test sets comprised of low-resolution, incomplete, or ensemble of input structures.