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Recent technological improvements in crystallographic data collection have led to a surge in the number of protein structures being determined at atomic or near-atomic resolution. At this resolution, structural models can be expanded to include anisotropic displacement parameters (ADPs) for individual atoms. New protocols and new tools are needed to refine, analyze and validate such models optimally. One such tool, PARVATI, has been used to examine all protein structures (peptide chains >50 residues) for which expanded models including ADPs are available from the Protein Data Bank. The distribution of anisotropy within each of these refined models is broadly similar across the entire set of structures, with a mean anisotropy A in the range 0.4-0.5. This is a significant departure from a purely isotropic model and explains why the inclusion of ADPs yields a substantial improvement in the crystallographic residuals R and Rfree. The observed distribution of anisotropy may prove useful in the validation of very high resolution structures. A more complete understanding of this distribution may also allow the development of improved protein structural models, even at lower resolution.
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