Owing to high evolutionary divergence, it is not always possible to identify distantly related protein domains by sequence search techniques. Intermediate sequences possess sequence features of more than one protein and facilitate detection of remotely related proteins. We have demonstrated recently the employment of Cascade PSI-BLAST where we perform PSI-BLAST for many ‘generations’, initiating searches from new homologues as well. Such a rigorous propagation through generations of PSI-BLAST employs effectively the role of intermediates in detecting distant similarities between proteins. This approach has been tested on a large number of folds and its performance in detecting superfamily level relationships is ∼35% better than simple PSI-BLAST searches. We present a web server for this search method that permits users to perform Cascade PSI-BLAST searches against the Pfam, SCOP and SwissProt databases. The URL for this server is .
Summary: Iterative similarity searches with PSI-BLAST position-specific score matrices (PSSMs) find many more homologs than single searches, but PSSMs can be contaminated when homologous alignments are extended into unrelated protein domains—homologous over-extension (HOE). PSI-Search combines an optimal Smith–Waterman local alignment sequence search, using SSEARCH, with the PSI-BLAST profile construction strategy. An optional sequence boundary-masking procedure, which prevents alignments from being extended after they are initially included, can reduce HOE errors in the PSSM profile. Preventing HOE improves selectivity for both PSI-BLAST and PSI-Search, but PSI-Search has ~4-fold better selectivity than PSI-BLAST and similar sensitivity at 50% and 60% family coverage. PSI-Search is also produces 2- for 4-fold fewer false-positives than JackHMMER, but is ~5% less sensitive.
Availability and implementation: PSI-Search is available from the authors as a standalone implementation written in Perl for Linux-compatible platforms. It is also available through a web interface (www.ebi.ac.uk/Tools/sss/psisearch) and SOAP and REST Web Services (www.ebi.ac.uk/Tools/webservices).
The genomic era has seen a remarkable increase in the number of genomes being sequenced and annotated. Nonetheless, annotation remains a serious challenge for compositionally biased genomes. For the preliminary annotation, popular nucleotide and protein comparison methods such as BLAST are widely employed. These methods make use of matrices to score alignments such as the amino acid substitution matrices. Since a nucleotide bias leads to an overall bias in the amino acid composition of proteins, it is possible that a genome with nucleotide bias may have introduced atypical amino acid substitutions in its proteome. Consequently, standard matrices fail to perform well in sequence analysis of these genomes. To address this issue, we examined the amino acid substitution in the AT-rich genome of Plasmodium falciparum, chosen as a reference and reconstituted a substitution matrix in the genome's context. The matrix was used to generate protein sequence alignments for the parasite proteins that improved across the functional regions. We attribute this to the consistency that may have been achieved amid the target and background frequencies calculated exclusively in our study. This study has important implications on annotation of proteins that are of experimental interest but give poor sequence alignments with standard conventional matrices.
Detecting remote homologies by direct comparison of protein sequences remains a challenging task. We had previously developed a similarity score between sequences, called a local alignment kernel, that exhibits good performance for this task in combination with a support vector machine. The local alignment kernel depends on an amino acid substitution matrix. Since commonly used BLOSUM or PAM matrices for scoring amino acid matches have been optimized to be used in combination with the Smith-Waterman algorithm, the matrices optimal for the local alignment kernel can be different.
Contrary to the local alignment score computed by the Smith-Waterman algorithm, the local alignment kernel is differentiable with respect to the amino acid substitution and its derivative can be computed efficiently by dynamic programming. We optimized the substitution matrix by classical gradient descent by setting an objective function that measures how well the local alignment kernel discriminates homologs from non-homologs in the COG database. The local alignment kernel exhibits better performance when it uses the matrices and gap parameters optimized by this procedure than when it uses the matrices optimized for the Smith-Waterman algorithm. Furthermore, the matrices and gap parameters optimized for the local alignment kernel can also be used successfully by the Smith-Waterman algorithm.
This optimization procedure leads to useful substitution matrices, both for the local alignment kernel and the Smith-Waterman algorithm. The best performance for homology detection is obtained by the local alignment kernel.
The fastSCOP is a web server that rapidly identifies the structural domains and determines the evolutionary superfamilies of a query protein structure. This server uses 3D-BLAST to scan quickly a large structural classification database (SCOP1.71 with <95% identity with each other) and the top 10 hit domains, which have different superfamily classifications, are obtained from the hit lists. MAMMOTH, a detailed structural alignment tool, is adopted to align these top 10 structures to refine domain boundaries and to identify evolutionary superfamilies. Our previous works demonstrated that 3D-BLAST is as fast as BLAST, and has the characteristics of BLAST (e.g. a robust statistical basis, effective search and reliable database search capabilities) in large structural database searches based on a structural alphabet database and a structural alphabet substitution matrix. The classification accuracy of this server is ∼98% for 586 query structures and the average execution time is ∼5. This server was also evaluated on 8700 structures, which have no annotations in the SCOP; the server can automatically assign 7311 (84%) proteins (9420 domains) to the SCOP superfamilies in 9.6 h. These results suggest that the fastSCOP is robust and can be a useful server for recognizing the evolutionary classifications and the protein functions of novel structures. The server is accessible at http://fastSCOP.life.nctu.edu.tw.
HHpred is a fast server for remote protein homology detection and structure prediction and is the first to implement pairwise comparison of profile hidden Markov models (HMMs). It allows to search a wide choice of databases, such as the PDB, SCOP, Pfam, SMART, COGs and CDD. It accepts a single query sequence or a multiple alignment as input. Within only a few minutes it returns the search results in a user-friendly format similar to that of PSI-BLAST. Search options include local or global alignment and scoring secondary structure similarity. HHpred can produce pairwise query-template alignments, multiple alignments of the query with a set of templates selected from the search results, as well as 3D structural models that are calculated by the MODELLER software from these alignments. A detailed help facility is available. As a demonstration, we analyze the sequence of SpoVT, a transcriptional regulator from Bacillus subtilis. HHpred can be accessed at .
Sensitive remote homology detection and accurate alignments especially in the midnight zone of sequence similarity are needed for better function annotation and structural modeling of proteins. An algorithm, AlignHUSH for HMM-HMM alignment has been developed which is capable of recognizing distantly related domain families The method uses structural information, in the form of predicted secondary structure probabilities, and hydrophobicity of amino acids to align HMMs of two sets of aligned sequences. The effect of using adjoining column(s) information has also been investigated and is found to increase the sensitivity of HMM-HMM alignments and remote homology detection.
We have assessed the performance of AlignHUSH using known evolutionary relationships available in SCOP. AlignHUSH performs better than the best HMM-HMM alignment methods and is observed to be even more sensitive at higher error rates. Accuracy of the alignments obtained using AlignHUSH has been assessed using the structure-based alignments available in BaliBASE. The alignment length and the alignment quality are found to be appropriate for homology modeling and function annotation. The alignment accuracy is found to be comparable to existing methods for profile-profile alignments.
A new method to align HMMs has been developed and is shown to have better sensitivity at error rates of 10% and above when compared to other available programs. The proposed method could effectively aid obtaining clues to functions of proteins of yet unknown function.
A web-server incorporating the AlignHUSH method is available at http://crick.mbu.iisc.ernet.in/~alignhush/
Position specific score matrices (PSSMs) are derived from multiple sequence alignments to aid in the recognition of distant protein sequence relationships. The PSI-BLAST protein database search program derives the column scores of its PSSMs with the aid of pseudocounts, added to the observed amino acid counts in a multiple alignment column. In the absence of theory, the number of pseudocounts used has been a completely empirical parameter. This article argues that the minimum description length principle can motivate the choice of this parameter. Specifically, for realistic alignments, the principle supports the practice of using a number of pseudocounts essentially independent of alignment size. However, it also implies that more highly conserved columns should use fewer pseudocounts, increasing the inter-column contrast of the implied PSSMs. A new method for calculating pseudocounts that significantly improves PSI-BLAST's; retrieval accuracy is now employed by default.
Template selection and target-template alignment are critical steps for template-based modeling (TBM) methods. To identify the template for the twilight zone of 15~25% sequence similarity between targets and templates is still difficulty for template-based protein structure prediction. This study presents the (PS)2-v2 server, based on our original server with numerous enhancements and modifications, to improve reliability and applicability.
To detect homologous proteins with remote similarity, the (PS)2-v2 server utilizes the S2A2 matrix, which is a 60 × 60 substitution matrix using the secondary structure propensities of 20 amino acids, and the position-specific sequence profile (PSSM) generated by PSI-BLAST. In addition, our server uses multiple templates and multiple models to build and assess models. Our method was evaluated on the Lindahl benchmark for fold recognition and ProSup benchmark for sequence alignment. Evaluation results indicated that our method outperforms sequence-profile approaches, and had comparable performance to that of structure-based methods on these benchmarks. Finally, we tested our method using the 154 TBM targets of the CASP8 (Critical Assessment of Techniques for Protein Structure Prediction) dataset. Experimental results show that (PS)2-v2 is ranked 6th among 72 severs and is faster than the top-rank five serves, which utilize ab initio methods.
Experimental results demonstrate that (PS)2-v2 with the S2A2 matrix is useful for template selections and target-template alignments by blending the amino acid and structural propensities. The multiple-template and multiple-model strategies are able to significantly improve the accuracies for target-template alignments in the twilight zone. We believe that this server is useful in structure prediction and modeling, especially in detecting homologous templates with sequence similarity in the twilight zone.
The Blocks Database World Wide Web (http://www.blocks.fhcrc.org ) and Email (email@example.com) servers provide tools for the detection and analysis of protein homology based on alignment blocks representing conserved regions of proteins. During the past year, searching has been augmented by supplementation of the Blocks Database with blocks from the Prints Database, for a total of 4754 blocks from 1163 families. Blocks from both the Blocks and Prints Databases and blocks that are constructed from sequences submitted to Block Maker can be used for blocks-versus-blocks searching of these databases with LAMA, and for viewing logos and bootstrap trees. Sensitive searches of up-to-date protein sequence databanks are carried out via direct links to the MAST server using position-specific scoring matrices and to the BLAST and PSI-BLAST servers using consensus-embedded sequence queries. Utilizing the trypsin family to evaluate performance, we illustrate the superiority of blocks-based tools over expert pairwise searching or Hidden Markov Models.
Biologists regularly search DNA or protein databases for sequences that share an evolutionary or functional relationship with a given query sequence. Traditional search methods, such as BLAST and PSI-BLAST, focus on detecting statistically significant pairwise sequence alignments and often miss more subtle sequence similarity. Recent work in the machine learning community has shown that exploiting the global structure of the network defined by these pairwise similarities can help detect more remote relationships than a purely local measure.
We review RankProp, a ranking algorithm that exploits the global network structure of similarity relationships among proteins in a database by performing a diffusion operation on a protein similarity network with weighted edges. The original RankProp algorithm is unsupervised. Here, we describe a semi-supervised version of the algorithm that uses labeled examples. Three possible ways of incorporating label information are considered: (i) as a validation set for model selection, (ii) to learn a new network, by choosing which transfer function to use for a given query, and (iii) to estimate edge weights, which measure the probability of inferring structural similarity.
Benchmarked on a human-curated database of protein structures, the original RankProp algorithm provides significant improvement over local network search algorithms such as PSI-BLAST. Furthermore, we show here that labeled data can be used to learn a network without any need for estimating parameters of the transfer function, and that diffusion on this learned network produces better results than the original RankProp algorithm with a fixed network.
In order to gain maximal information from a network, labeled and unlabeled data should be used to extract both local and global structure.
The adequacy of substitution matrices to model evolutionary relationships between amino acid sequences can be numerically evaluated by checking the mathematical property of triangle inequality for all triplets of residues. By converting substitution scores into distances, one can verify that a direct path between two amino acids is shorter than a path passing through a third amino acid in the amino acid space modeled by the matrix. If the triangle inequality is not verified, the intuition is that the evolutionary signal is not well modeled by the matrix, that the space is locally inconsistent and that the matrix construction was probably based on insufficient biological data. Previous analysis on several substitution matrices revealed that the number of triplets violating the triangle inequality increases with sequence divergence. Here, we compare matrices which are dedicated to the alignment of highly divergent proteins. The triangle inequality is tested on several classical substitution matrices as well as in a pair of “complementary” substitution matrices recording the evolutionary pressures inside and outside hydrophobic blocks in protein sequences. The analysis proves the crucial role of hydrophobic residues in substitution matrices dedicated to the alignment of distantly related proteins.
substitution matrices; triangle inequality; amino acids space; hydrophobic block
Annotating the tremendous amount of sequence information being generated requires accurate automated methods for recognizing homology. Although sequence similarity is only one of many indicators of evolutionary homology, it is often the only one used. Here we find that supplementing sequence similarity with information from biomedical literature is successful in increasing the accuracy of homology search results. We modified the PSI-BLAST algorithm to use literature similarity in each iteration of its database search. The modified algorithm is evaluated and compared to standard PSI-BLAST in searching for homologous proteins. The performance of the modified algorithm achieved 32% recall with 95% precision, while the original one achieved 33% recall with 84% precision; the literature similarity requirement preserved the sensitive characteristic of the PSI-BLAST algorithm while improving the precision.
Large-scale genome projects generate an unprecedented number of protein sequences, most of them are experimentally uncharacterized. Predicting the 3D structures of sequences provides important clues as to their functions. We constructed the Genomes TO Protein structures and functions (GTOP) database, containing protein fold predictions of a huge number of sequences. Predictions are mainly carried out with the homology search program PSI-BLAST, currently the most popular among high-sensitivity profile search methods. GTOP also includes the results of other analyses, e.g. homology and motif search, detection of transmembrane helices and repetitive sequences. We have completed analyzing the sequences of 41 organisms, with the number of proteins exceeding 120 000 in total. GTOP uses a graphical viewer to present the analytical results of each ORF in one page in a ‘color-bar’ format. The assigned 3D structures are presented by Chime plug-in or RasMol. The binding sites of ligands are also included, providing functional information. The GTOP server is available at http://spock.genes.nig.ac.jp/~genome/gtop.html.
For many RNA molecules, secondary structure rather than primary sequence is the evolutionarily conserved feature. No programs have yet been published that allow searching a sequence database for homologs of a single RNA molecule on the basis of secondary structure.
We have developed a program, RSEARCH, that takes a single RNA sequence with its secondary structure and utilizes a local alignment algorithm to search a database for homologous RNAs. For this purpose, we have developed a series of base pair and single nucleotide substitution matrices for RNA sequences called RIBOSUM matrices. RSEARCH reports the statistical confidence for each hit as well as the structural alignment of the hit. We show several examples in which RSEARCH outperforms the primary sequence search programs BLAST and SSEARCH. The primary drawback of the program is that it is slow. The C code for RSEARCH is freely available from our lab's website.
RSEARCH outperforms primary sequence programs in finding homologs of structured RNA sequences.
Almost all protein database search methods use amino acid substitution matrices for scoring, optimizing, and assessing the statistical significance of sequence alignments. Much care and effort has therefore gone into constructing substitution matrices, and the quality of search results can depend strongly upon the choice of the proper matrix. A long-standing problem has been the comparison of sequences with biased amino acid compositions, for which standard substitution matrices are not optimal. To address this problem, we have recently developed a general procedure for transforming a standard matrix into one appropriate for the comparison of two sequences with arbitrary, and possibly differing compositions. Such adjusted matrices yield, on average, improved alignments and alignment scores when applied to the comparison of proteins with markedly biased compositions.
Here we review the application of compositionally adjusted matrices and consider whether they may also be applied fruitfully to general purpose protein sequence database searches, in which related sequence pairs do not necessarily have strong compositional biases. Although it is not advisable to apply compositional adjustment indiscriminately, we describe several simple criteria under which invoking such adjustment is on average beneficial. In a typical database search, at least one of these criteria is satisfied by over half the related sequence pairs. Compositional substitution matrix adjustment is now available in NCBI's protein-protein version of BLAST.
substitution matrices; compositional adjustment; protein database searches; BLAST; BLOSUM
BLAST is a commonly-used software package for comparing a query sequence to a database of known sequences; in this study, we focus on protein sequences. Position-specific-iterated BLAST (PSI-BLAST) iteratively searches a protein sequence database, using the matches in round i to construct a position-specific score matrix (PSSM) for searching the database in round i + 1. Biegert and Söding developed Context-sensitive BLAST (CS-BLAST), which combines information from searching the sequence database with information derived from a library of short protein profiles to achieve better homology detection than PSI-BLAST, which builds its PSSMs from scratch.
We describe a new method, called domain enhanced lookup time accelerated BLAST (DELTA-BLAST), which searches a database of pre-constructed PSSMs before searching a protein-sequence database, to yield better homology detection. For its PSSMs, DELTA-BLAST employs a subset of NCBI’s Conserved Domain Database (CDD). On a test set derived from ASTRAL, with one round of searching, DELTA-BLAST achieves a ROC5000 of 0.270 vs. 0.116 for CS-BLAST. The performance advantage diminishes in iterated searches, but DELTA-BLAST continues to achieve better ROC scores than CS-BLAST.
DELTA-BLAST is a useful program for the detection of remote protein homologs. It is available under the “Protein BLAST” link at http://blast.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.
This article was reviewed by Arcady Mushegian, Nick V. Grishin, and Frank Eisenhaber.
As more protein structures become available and structural genomics efforts provide structural models in a genome-wide strategy, there is a growing need for fast and accurate methods for discovering homologous proteins and evolutionary classifications of newly determined structures. We have developed 3D-BLAST, in part, to address these issues. 3D-BLAST is as fast as BLAST and calculates the statistical significance (E-value) of an alignment to indicate the reliability of the prediction. Using this method, we first identified 23 states of the structural alphabet that represent pattern profiles of the backbone fragments and then used them to represent protein structure databases as structural alphabet sequence databases (SADB). Our method enhanced BLAST as a search method, using a new structural alphabet substitution matrix (SASM) to find the longest common substructures with high-scoring structured segment pairs from an SADB database. Using personal computers with Intel Pentium4 (2.8 GHz) processors, our method searched more than 10 000 protein structures in 1.3 s and achieved a good agreement with search results from detailed structure alignment methods. [3D-BLAST is available at ]
We have characterized a novel type of PSI-BLAST error, homologous over-extension (HOE), using embedded PFAM domain queries on searches against a reference library containing Pfam-annotated UniProt sequences and random synthetic sequences. PSI-BLAST makes two types of errors: alignments to non-homologous regions and HOE alignments that begin in a homologous region, but extend beyond the homology into neighboring sequence regions. When the neighboring sequence region contains a non-homologous domain, PSI-BLAST can incorporate the unrelated sequence into its position specific scoring matrix, which then finds non-homologous proteins with significant expectation values. HOE accounts for the largest fraction of the initial false positive (FP) errors, and the largest fraction of FPs at iteration 5. In searches against complete protein sequences, 5–9% of alignments at iteration 5 are non-homologous. HOE frequently begins in a partial protein domain; when partial domains are removed from the library, HOE errors decrease from 16 to 3% of weighted coverage (hard queries; 35–5% for sampled queries) and no-error searches increase from 2 to 58% weighed coverage (hard; 16–78% sampled). When HOE is reduced by not extending previously found sequences, PSI-BLAST specificity improves 4–8-fold, with little loss in sensitivity.
We present a set of programs and a website designed to facilitate protein structure comparison and protein structure modeling efforts. Our protein structure analysis and comparison services use the LGA (local-global alignment) program to search for regions of local similarity and to evaluate the level of structural similarity between compared protein structures. To facilitate the homology-based protein structure modeling process, our AL2TS service translates given sequence–structure alignment data into the standard Protein Data Bank (PDB) atom records (coordinates). For a given sequence of amino acids, the AS2TS (amino acid sequence to tertiary structure) system calculates (e.g. using PSI-BLAST PDB analysis) a list of the closest proteins from the PDB, and then a set of draft 3D models is automatically created. Web services are available at .
Searching databases for distant homologues using alignments instead of individual sequences increases the power of detection. However, most methods assume that protein evolution proceeds in a regular fashion, with the inferred tree of sequences providing a good estimation of the evolutionary process. We investigated the combined HMMER search results from random alignment subsets (with three sequences each) drawn from the parent alignment (Rand-shuffle algorithm), using the SCOP structural classification to determine true similarities. At false-positive rates of 5%, the Rand-shuffle algorithm improved HMMER's sensitivity, with a 37.5% greater sensitivity compared with HMMER alone, when easily identified similarities (identifiable by BLAST) were excluded from consideration. An extension of the Rand-shuffle algorithm (Ali-shuffle) weighted towards more informative sequence subsets. This approach improved the performance over HMMER alone and PSI-BLAST, particularly at higher false-positive rates. The improvements in performance of these sequence sub-sampling methods may reflect lower sensitivity to alignment error and irregular evolutionary patterns. The Ali-shuffle and Rand-shuffle sequence homology search programs are available by request from the authors.
Sequence alignments may be the most fundamental computational resource for molecular biology. The best methods that identify sequence relatedness through profile–profile comparisons are much slower and more complex than sequence–sequence and sequence–profile comparisons such as, respectively, BLAST and PSI-BLAST. Families of related genes and gene products (proteins) can be represented by consensus sequences that list the nucleic/amino acid most frequent at each sequence position in that family. Here, we propose a novel approach for consensus-sequence-based comparisons. This approach improved searches and alignments as a standard add-on to PSI-BLAST without any changes of code. Improvements were particularly significant for more difficult tasks such as the identification of distant structural relations between proteins and their corresponding alignments. Despite the fact that the improvements were higher for more divergent relations, they were consistent even at high accuracy/low error rates for non-trivially related proteins. The improvements were very easy to achieve; no parameter used by PSI-BLAST was altered and no single line of code changed. Furthermore, the consensus sequence add-on required relatively little additional CPU time. We discuss how advanced users of PSI-BLAST can immediately benefit from using consensus sequences on their local computers. We have also made the method available through the Internet (http://www.rostlab.org/services/consensus/).
Substitution matrices are key parameters for the alignment of two protein sequences, and consequently for most comparative genomics studies. The composition of biological sequences can vary importantly between species and groups of species, and classical matrices such as those in the BLOSUM series fail to accurately estimate alignment scores and statistical significance with sequences sharing marked compositional biases.
We present a general and simple methodology to build matrices that are especially fitted to the compositional bias of proteins. Our approach is inspired from the one used to build the BLOSUM matrices and is based on learning substitution and amino acid frequencies on real sequences with the corresponding compositional bias. We applied it to the large scale comparison of Mollicute AT-rich genomes. The new matrix, MOLLI60, was used to predict pairwise orthology relationships, as well as homolog families among 24 Mollicute genomes. We show that this new matrix enables to better discriminate between true and false orthologs and improves the clustering of homologous proteins, with respect to the use of the classical matrix BLOSUM62.
We show in this paper that well-fitted matrices can improve the predictions of orthologous and homologous relationships among proteins with a similar compositional bias. With the ever-increasing number of sequenced genomes, our approach could prove valuable in numerous comparative studies focusing on atypical genomes.
The most common substitution matrices currently used (BLOSUM and PAM) are based on protein sequences with average amino acid distributions, thus they do not represent a fully accurate substitution model for proteins characterized by a biased amino acid composition. This problem has been addressed recently by adjusting existing matrices, however, to date, no empirical approach has been taken to build matrices which offer a substitution model for comparing proteins sharing an amino acid compositional bias. Here, we present a novel procedure to construct series of symmetrical substitution matrices to align proteins from similarly biased Plasmodium proteomes.
We generated substitution matrices by selecting from the BLOCKS database those multiple alignments with a compositional bias similar to that of P. falciparum and P. yoelii proteins. A novel 'fuzzy' clustering method was adopted to group sequences within these alignments, showing that this method retains more complete information on the amino acid substitutions when compared to hierarchical clustering. We assessed the performance against the BLOSUM62 series and showed that the usage of our matrices results in an improvement in the performance of BLAST database searches, greatly reducing the number of false positive hits. We then demonstrated applications of the use of novel matrices to improve the annotation of homologs between the two Plasmodium species and to classify members of the P. falciparum RIFIN/STEVOR family.
We confirmed that in the case of compositionally biased proteins, standard BLOSUM matrices are not suited for optimal alignments, and specific substitution matrices are required. In addition, we showed that the usage of these matrices leads to a reduction of false positive hits, facilitating the automatic annotation process.
COMPASS is a method for homology detection and local alignment construction based on the comparison of multiple sequence alignments (MSAs). The method derives numerical profiles from given MSAs, constructs local profile-profile alignments and analytically estimates E-values for the detected similarities. Until now, COMPASS was only available for download and local installation. Here, we present a new web server featuring the latest version of COMPASS, which provides (i) increased sensitivity and selectivity of homology detection; (ii) longer, more complete alignments; and (iii) faster computational speed. After submission of the query MSA or single sequence, the server performs searches versus a user-specified database. The server includes detailed and intuitive control of the search parameters. A flexible output format, structured similarly to BLAST and PSI-BLAST, provides an easy way to read and analyze the detected profile similarities. Brief help sections are available for all input parameters and output options, along with detailed documentation. To illustrate the value of this tool for protein structure-functional prediction, we present two examples of detecting distant homologs for uncharacterized protein families. Available at http://prodata.swmed.edu/compass