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Deep learning models have been shown to accurately predict protein structure from sequence, allowing researchers to explore protein space from the structural viewpoint. In this paper we explore whether "novel" features, such as distinct loop conformations can arise from these predictions despite not being present in the training data. Here we have used ABodyBuilder2, a deep learning antibody structure predictor, to predict the structures of ~1.5M paired antibody sequences. We examined the predicted structures of the canonical CDR loops and found that most of these predictions fall into the already described CDR canonical form structural space. We also found a small number of "new" canonical clusters composed of heterogeneous sequences united by a common sequence motif and loop conformation. Analysis of these novel clusters showed their origins to be either shapes seen in the training data at very low frequency or shapes seen at high frequency but at a shorter sequence length. To evaluate explicitly the ability of ABodyBuilder2 to extrapolate, we retrained several models whilst withholding all antibody structures of a specific CDR loop length or canonical form. These "starved" models showed evidence of generalisation across CDRs of different lengths, but they did not extrapolate to loop conformations which were highly distinct from those present in the training data. However, the models were able to accurately predict a canonical form even if only a very small number of examples of that shape were in the training data. Our results suggest that deep learning protein structure prediction methods are unable to make completely out-of-domain predictions for CDR loops. However, in our analysis we also found that even minimal amounts of data of a structural shape allow the method to recover its original predictive abilities. We have made the ~1.5 M predicted structures used in this study available to download at

Original publication




Journal article


Front Immunol

Publication Date





antibody, canonical forms, complementarity determining regions, deep learning, structure prediction