A Visual Language for Protein Design


As protein engineering becomes more sophisticated, practitioners increasingly need to share diagrams for communicating protein designs. To this end, we present a draft visual language, Protein Language, that describes the high-level architecture of an engineered protein with easy-to-draw glyphs, intended to be compatible with other biological diagram languages such as SBOL Visual and SBGN. Protein Language consists of glyphs for representing important features (e.g., globular domains, recognition and localization sequences, sites of covalent modification, cleavage and catalysis), rules for composing these glyphs to represent complex architectures, and rules constraining the scaling and styling of diagrams. To support Protein Language we have implemented an extensible web-based software diagram tool, Protein Designer, that uses Protein Language in a “drag and drop” interface for visualization and computer-aided-design of engineered proteins, as well as conversion of annotated protein sequences to Protein Language diagrams and figure export. Protein Designer can be accessed at http://biocad.ncl.ac.uk/protein-designer/.