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A method is presented for automated best-matching alignment of three-dimensional models represented by ensembles of points. A normalized spatial discrepancy (NSD) is introduced as a proximity measure between three-dimensional objects. Starting from an inertia-axes alignment, the algorithm minimizes the NSD; the final value of the NSD provides a quantitative estimate of similarity between the objects. The method is implemented in a computer program. Simulations have been performed to test its performance on model structures with specified numbers of points ranging from a few to a few thousand. The method can be used for comparative analysis of structural models obtained by different methods, e.g. of high-resolution crystallographic atomic structures and low-resolution models from solution scattering or electron microscopy.

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