Genome-wide prediction of protein subcellular localization is an important type of evidence used for inferring protein function. While a variety of computational tools have been developed for this purpose, errors in the gene models and use of protein sorting signals that are not recognized by the more commonly accepted tools can diminish the accuracy of their output.
As part of an effort to manually curate the annotations of 19 strains of Shewanella, numerous insights were gained regarding the use of computational tools and proteomics data to predict protein localization. Identification of the suite of secretion systems present in each strain at the start of the process made it possible to tailor-fit the subsequent localization prediction strategies to each strain for improved accuracy. Comparisons of the computational predictions among orthologous proteins revealed inconsistencies in the computational outputs, which could often be resolved by adjusting the gene models or ortholog group memberships. While proteomic data was useful for verifying start site predictions and post-translational proteolytic cleavage, care was needed to distinguish cellular versus sample processing-mediated cleavage events. Searches for lipoprotein signal peptides revealed that neither TatP nor LipoP are designed for identification of lipoprotein substrates of the twin arginine translocation system and that the +2 rule for lipoprotein sorting does not apply to this Genus. Analysis of the relationships between domain occurrence and protein localization prediction enabled identification of numerous location-informative domains which could then be used to refine or increase confidence in location predictions. This collective knowledge was used to develop a general strategy for predicting protein localization that could be adapted to other organisms.
Improved localization prediction accuracy is not simply a matter of developing better computational algorithms. It also entails gathering key knowledge regarding the host architecture and translocation machinery and associated substrate recognition via experimentation and integration of diverse computational analyses from many proteins and, where possible, that are derived from different species within the same genus.