The computational procedures for predicting the 3D structure of aptamers interacting with different biological molecules have gained increasing attention in recent years. The information acquired through these methods represents a crucial input for research, especially when relevant crystallographic data are not available. A number of software programs able to perform macromolecular docking are currently accessible, leading to the prediction of the quaternary structure of complexes formed by two or more interacting biological macromolecules. Nevertheless, the scoring protocols employed for ranking the candidate structures do not always produce satisfactory results, making difficult the identification of structures that are most likely to occur in nature. In this paper, we propose a novel procedure to improve the predictive performances of computational scoring protocols, using a maximum likelihood estimate based on topological and electrical properties of interacting biomolecules. The reliability of the new computational approach, enabling the ranking of aptamer-protein configurations produced by an open source docking program, has been assessed by its successful application to a set of antiangiopoietin aptamers, for which experimental data highlighting the sequence-dependent affinity toward the target protein are available. The procedure led to the identification of two main types of aptamer conformers involved in angiopoietin binding. Interestingly, one of these reproduces the arrangement of angiopoietin with its natural target, tyrosine kinase, while the other one is completely unexpected. The possible scenarios related to these results have been discussed. The methodology here described can be used to refine the outcomes of different computational procedures and can be applied to a wide range of biological molecules, thus representing a new tool for guiding the design of bioinspired sensors with enhanced selectivity.
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