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1.  Phylogenetic and Functional Assessment of Orthologs Inference Projects and Methods 
PLoS Computational Biology  2009;5(1):e1000262.
Accurate genome-wide identification of orthologs is a central problem in comparative genomics, a fact reflected by the numerous orthology identification projects developed in recent years. However, only a few reports have compared their accuracy, and indeed, several recent efforts have not yet been systematically evaluated. Furthermore, orthology is typically only assessed in terms of function conservation, despite the phylogeny-based original definition of Fitch. We collected and mapped the results of nine leading orthology projects and methods (COG, KOG, Inparanoid, OrthoMCL, Ensembl Compara, Homologene, RoundUp, EggNOG, and OMA) and two standard methods (bidirectional best-hit and reciprocal smallest distance). We systematically compared their predictions with respect to both phylogeny and function, using six different tests. This required the mapping of millions of sequences, the handling of hundreds of millions of predicted pairs of orthologs, and the computation of tens of thousands of trees. In phylogenetic analysis or in functional analysis where high specificity is required, we find that OMA and Homologene perform best. At lower functional specificity but higher coverage level, OrthoMCL outperforms Ensembl Compara, and to a lesser extent Inparanoid. Lastly, the large coverage of the recent EggNOG can be of interest to build broad functional grouping, but the method is not specific enough for phylogenetic or detailed function analyses. In terms of general methodology, we observe that the more sophisticated tree reconstruction/reconciliation approach of Ensembl Compara was at times outperformed by pairwise comparison approaches, even in phylogenetic tests. Furthermore, we show that standard bidirectional best-hit often outperforms projects with more complex algorithms. First, the present study provides guidance for the broad community of orthology data users as to which database best suits their needs. Second, it introduces new methodology to verify orthology. And third, it sets performance standards for current and future approaches.
Author Summary
The identification of orthologs, pairs of homologous genes in different species that started diverging through speciation events, is a central problem in genomics with applications in many research areas, including comparative genomics, phylogenetics, protein function annotation, and genome rearrangement. An increasing number of projects aim at inferring orthologs from complete genomes, but little is known about their relative accuracy or coverage. Because the exact evolutionary history of entire genomes remains largely unknown, predictions can only be validated indirectly, that is, in the context of the different applications of orthology. The few comparison studies published so far have asssessed orthology exclusively from the expectation that orthologs have conserved protein function. In the present work, we introduce methodology to verify orthology in terms of phylogeny and perform a comprehensive comparison of nine leading ortholog inference projects and two methods using both phylogenetic and functional tests. The results show large variations among the different projects in terms of performances, which indicates that the choice of orthology database can have a strong impact on any downstream analysis.
PMCID: PMC2612752  PMID: 19148271
2.  Berkeley PHOG: PhyloFacts orthology group prediction web server 
Nucleic Acids Research  2009;37(Web Server issue):W84-W89.
Ortholog detection is essential in functional annotation of genomes, with applications to phylogenetic tree construction, prediction of protein–protein interaction and other bioinformatics tasks. We present here the PHOG web server employing a novel algorithm to identify orthologs based on phylogenetic analysis. Results on a benchmark dataset from the TreeFam-A manually curated orthology database show that PHOG provides a combination of high recall and precision competitive with both InParanoid and OrthoMCL, and allows users to target different taxonomic distances and precision levels through the use of tree-distance thresholds. For instance, OrthoMCL-DB achieved 76% recall and 66% precision on this dataset; at a slightly higher precision (68%) PHOG achieves 10% higher recall (86%). InParanoid achieved 87% recall at 24% precision on this dataset, while a PHOG variant designed for high recall achieves 88% recall at 61% precision, increasing precision by 37% over InParanoid. PHOG is based on pre-computed trees in the PhyloFacts resource, and contains over 366 K orthology groups with a minimum of three species. Predicted orthologs are linked to GO annotations, pathway information and biological literature. The PHOG web server is available at
PMCID: PMC2703887  PMID: 19435885
3.  Improved orthologous databases to ease protozoan targets inference 
Parasites & Vectors  2015;8:494.
Homology inference helps on identifying similarities, as well as differences among organisms, which provides a better insight on how closely related one might be to another. In addition, comparative genomics pipelines are widely adopted tools designed using different bioinformatics applications and algorithms. In this article, we propose a methodology to build improved orthologous databases with the potential to aid on protozoan target identification, one of the many tasks which benefit from comparative genomics tools.
Our analyses are based on OrthoSearch, a comparative genomics pipeline originally designed to infer orthologs through protein-profile comparison, supported by an HMM, reciprocal best hits based approach. Our methodology allows OrthoSearch to confront two orthologous databases and to generate an improved new one. Such can be later used to infer potential protozoan targets through a similarity analysis against the human genome.
The protein sequences of Cryptosporidium hominis, Entamoeba histolytica and Leishmania infantum genomes were comparatively analyzed against three orthologous databases: (i) EggNOG KOG, (ii) ProtozoaDB and (iii) Kegg Orthology (KO). That allowed us to create two new orthologous databases, “KO + EggNOG KOG” and “KO + EggNOG KOG + ProtozoaDB”, with 16,938 and 27,701 orthologous groups, respectively.
Such new orthologous databases were used for a regular OrthoSearch run. By confronting “KO + EggNOG KOG” and “KO + EggNOG KOG + ProtozoaDB” databases and protozoan species we were able to detect the following total of orthologous groups and coverage (relation between the inferred orthologous groups and the species total number of proteins): Cryptosporidium hominis: 1,821 (11 %) and 3,254 (12 %); Entamoeba histolytica: 2,245 (13 %) and 5,305 (19 %); Leishmania infantum: 2,702 (16 %) and 4,760 (17 %).
Using our HMM-based methodology and the largest created orthologous database, it was possible to infer 13 orthologous groups which represent potential protozoan targets; these were found because of our distant homology approach.
We also provide the number of species-specific, pair-to-pair and core groups from such analyses, depicted in Venn diagrams.
The orthologous databases generated by our HMM-based methodology provide a broader dataset, with larger amounts of orthologous groups when compared to the original databases used as input. Those may be used for several homology inference analyses, annotation tasks and protozoan targets identification.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13071-015-1090-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4587786  PMID: 26416523
Comparative genomics; Homology inference; Target identification; Protozoa; Orthologous database; Distant homology; Leishmania; Cryptosporidium; Entamoeba
4.  OrthoSelect: a protocol for selecting orthologous groups in phylogenomics 
BMC Bioinformatics  2009;10:219.
Phylogenetic studies using expressed sequence tags (EST) are becoming a standard approach to answer evolutionary questions. Such studies are usually based on large sets of newly generated, unannotated, and error-prone EST sequences from different species. A first crucial step in EST-based phylogeny reconstruction is to identify groups of orthologous sequences. From these data sets, appropriate target genes are selected, and redundant sequences are eliminated to obtain suitable sequence sets as input data for tree-reconstruction software. Generating such data sets manually can be very time consuming. Thus, software tools are needed that carry out these steps automatically.
We developed a flexible and user-friendly software pipeline, running on desktop machines or computer clusters, that constructs data sets for phylogenomic analyses. It automatically searches assembled EST sequences against databases of orthologous groups (OG), assigns ESTs to these predefined OGs, translates the sequences into proteins, eliminates redundant sequences assigned to the same OG, creates multiple sequence alignments of identified orthologous sequences and offers the possibility to further process this alignment in a last step by excluding potentially homoplastic sites and selecting sufficiently conserved parts. Our software pipeline can be used as it is, but it can also be adapted by integrating additional external programs. This makes the pipeline useful for non-bioinformaticians as well as to bioinformatic experts. The software pipeline is especially designed for ESTs, but it can also handle protein sequences.
OrthoSelect is a tool that produces orthologous gene alignments from assembled ESTs. Our tests show that OrthoSelect detects orthologs in EST libraries with high accuracy. In the absence of a gold standard for orthology prediction, we compared predictions by OrthoSelect to a manually created and published phylogenomic data set. Our tool was not only able to rebuild the data set with a specificity of 98%, but it detected four percent more orthologous sequences. Furthermore, the results OrthoSelect produces are in absolut agreement with the results of other programs, but our tool offers a significant speedup and additional functionality, e.g. handling of ESTs, computing sequence alignments, and refining them. To our knowledge, there is currently no fully automated and freely available tool for this purpose. Thus, OrthoSelect is a valuable tool for researchers in the field of phylogenomics who deal with large quantities of EST sequences. OrthoSelect is written in Perl and runs on Linux/Mac OS X. The tool can be downloaded at
PMCID: PMC2719630  PMID: 19607672
5.  Computational Identification of the Paralogs and Orthologs of Human Cytochrome P450 Superfamily and the Implication in Drug Discovery 
The human cytochrome P450 (CYP) superfamily consisting of 57 functional genes is the most important group of Phase I drug metabolizing enzymes that oxidize a large number of xenobiotics and endogenous compounds, including therapeutic drugs and environmental toxicants. The CYP superfamily has been shown to expand itself through gene duplication, and some of them become pseudogenes due to gene mutations. Orthologs and paralogs are homologous genes resulting from speciation or duplication, respectively. To explore the evolutionary and functional relationships of human CYPs, we conducted this bioinformatic study to identify their corresponding paralogs, homologs, and orthologs. The functional implications and implications in drug discovery and evolutionary biology were then discussed. GeneCards and Ensembl were used to identify the paralogs of human CYPs. We have used a panel of online databases to identify the orthologs of human CYP genes: NCBI, Ensembl Compara, GeneCards, OMA (“Orthologous MAtrix”) Browser, PATHER, TreeFam, EggNOG, and Roundup. The results show that each human CYP has various numbers of paralogs and orthologs using GeneCards and Ensembl. For example, the paralogs of CYP2A6 include CYP2A7, 2A13, 2B6, 2C8, 2C9, 2C18, 2C19, 2D6, 2E1, 2F1, 2J2, 2R1, 2S1, 2U1, and 2W1; CYP11A1 has 6 paralogs including CYP11B1, 11B2, 24A1, 27A1, 27B1, and 27C1; CYP51A1 has only three paralogs: CYP26A1, 26B1, and 26C1; while CYP20A1 has no paralog. The majority of human CYPs are well conserved from plants, amphibians, fishes, or mammals to humans due to their important functions in physiology and xenobiotic disposition. The data from different approaches are also cross-validated and validated when experimental data are available. These findings facilitate our understanding of the evolutionary relationships and functional implications of the human CYP superfamily in drug discovery.
PMCID: PMC4964396  PMID: 27367670
human CYP; drug metabolism; paralog; homolog; ortholog; comparative genomics; bioinformatics
6.  OrthoMaM: A database of orthologous genomic markers for placental mammal phylogenetics 
Molecular sequence data have become the standard in modern day phylogenetics. In particular, several long-standing questions of mammalian evolutionary history have been recently resolved thanks to the use of molecular characters. Yet, most studies have focused on only a handful of standard markers. The availability of an ever increasing number of whole genome sequences is a golden mine for modern systematics. Genomic data now provide the opportunity to select new markers that are potentially relevant for further resolving branches of the mammalian phylogenetic tree at various taxonomic levels.
The EnsEMBL database was used to determine a set of orthologous genes from 12 available complete mammalian genomes. As targets for possible amplification and sequencing in additional taxa, more than 3,000 exons of length > 400 bp have been selected, among which 118, 368, 608, and 674 are respectively retrieved for 12, 11, 10, and 9 species. A bioinformatic pipeline has been developed to provide evolutionary descriptors for these candidate markers in order to assess their potential phylogenetic utility. The resulting OrthoMaM (Orthologous Mammalian Markers) database can be queried and alignments can be downloaded through a dedicated web interface .
The importance of marker choice in phylogenetic studies has long been stressed. Our database centered on complete genome information now makes possible to select promising markers to a given phylogenetic question or a systematic framework by querying a number of evolutionary descriptors. The usefulness of the database is illustrated with two biological examples. First, two potentially useful markers were identified for rodent systematics based on relevant evolutionary parameters and sequenced in additional species. Second, a complete, gapless 94 kb supermatrix of 118 orthologous exons was assembled for 12 mammals. Phylogenetic analyses using probabilistic methods unambiguously supported the new placental phylogeny by retrieving the monophyly of Glires, Euarchontoglires, Laurasiatheria, and Boreoeutheria. Muroid rodents thus do not represent a basal placental lineage as it was mistakenly reasserted in some recent phylogenomic analyses based on fewer taxa. We expect the OrthoMaM database to be useful for further resolving the phylogenetic tree of placental mammals and for better understanding the evolutionary dynamics of their genomes, i.e., the forces that shaped coding sequences in terms of selective constraints.
PMCID: PMC2249597  PMID: 18053139
7.  OrthoDB: a hierarchical catalog of animal, fungal and bacterial orthologs 
Nucleic Acids Research  2012;41(Database issue):D358-D365.
The concept of orthology provides a foundation for formulating hypotheses on gene and genome evolution, and thus forms the cornerstone of comparative genomics, phylogenomics and metagenomics. We present the update of OrthoDB—the hierarchical catalog of orthologs ( From its conception, OrthoDB promoted delineation of orthologs at varying resolution by explicitly referring to the hierarchy of species radiations, now also adopted by other resources. The current release provides comprehensive coverage of animals and fungi representing 252 eukaryotic species, and is now extended to prokaryotes with the inclusion of 1115 bacteria. Functional annotations of orthologous groups are provided through mapping to InterPro, GO, OMIM and model organism phenotypes, with cross-references to major resources including UniProt, NCBI and FlyBase. Uniquely, OrthoDB provides computed evolutionary traits of orthologs, such as gene duplicability and loss profiles, divergence rates, sibling groups, and now extended with exon–intron architectures, syntenic orthologs and parent–child trees. The interactive web interface allows navigation along the species phylogenies, complex queries with various identifiers, annotation keywords and phrases, as well as with gene copy-number profiles and sequence homology searches. With the explosive growth of available data, OrthoDB also provides mapping of newly sequenced genomes and transcriptomes to the current orthologous groups.
PMCID: PMC3531149  PMID: 23180791
8.  MSOAR 2.0: Incorporating tandem duplications into ortholog assignment based on genome rearrangement 
BMC Bioinformatics  2010;11:10.
Ortholog assignment is a critical and fundamental problem in comparative genomics, since orthologs are considered to be functional counterparts in different species and can be used to infer molecular functions of one species from those of other species. MSOAR is a recently developed high-throughput system for assigning one-to-one orthologs between closely related species on a genome scale. It attempts to reconstruct the evolutionary history of input genomes in terms of genome rearrangement and gene duplication events. It assumes that a gene duplication event inserts a duplicated gene into the genome of interest at a random location (i.e., the random duplication model). However, in practice, biologists believe that genes are often duplicated by tandem duplications, where a duplicated gene is located next to the original copy (i.e., the tandem duplication model).
In this paper, we develop MSOAR 2.0, an improved system for one-to-one ortholog assignment. For a pair of input genomes, the system first focuses on the tandemly duplicated genes of each genome and tries to identify among them those that were duplicated after the speciation (i.e., the so-called inparalogs), using a simple phylogenetic tree reconciliation method. For each such set of tandemly duplicated inparalogs, all but one gene will be deleted from the concerned genome (because they cannot possibly appear in any one-to-one ortholog pairs), and MSOAR is invoked. Using both simulated and real data experiments, we show that MSOAR 2.0 is able to achieve a better sensitivity and specificity than MSOAR. In comparison with the well-known genome-scale ortholog assignment tool InParanoid, Ensembl ortholog database, and the orthology information extracted from the well-known whole-genome multiple alignment program MultiZ, MSOAR 2.0 shows the highest sensitivity. Although the specificity of MSOAR 2.0 is slightly worse than that of InParanoid in the real data experiments, it is actually better than that of InParanoid in the simulation tests.
Our preliminary experimental results demonstrate that MSOAR 2.0 is a highly accurate tool for one-to-one ortholog assignment between closely related genomes. The software is available to the public for free and included as online supplementary material.
PMCID: PMC2821317  PMID: 20053291
9.  eggNOG v3.0: orthologous groups covering 1133 organisms at 41 different taxonomic ranges 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;40(Database issue):D284-D289.
Orthologous relationships form the basis of most comparative genomic and metagenomic studies and are essential for proper phylogenetic and functional analyses. The third version of the eggNOG database ( contains non-supervised orthologous groups constructed from 1133 organisms, doubling the number of genes with orthology assignment compared to eggNOG v2. The new release is the result of a number of improvements and expansions: (i) the underlying homology searches are now based on the SIMAP database; (ii) the orthologous groups have been extended to 41 levels of selected taxonomic ranges enabling much more fine-grained orthology assignments; and (iii) the newly designed web page is considerably faster with more functionality. In total, eggNOG v3 contains 721 801 orthologous groups, encompassing a total of 4 396 591 genes. Additionally, we updated 4873 and 4850 original COGs and KOGs, respectively, to include all 1133 organisms. At the universal level, covering all three domains of life, 101 208 orthologous groups are available, while the others are applicable at 40 more limited taxonomic ranges. Each group is amended by multiple sequence alignments and maximum-likelihood trees and broad functional descriptions are provided for 450 904 orthologous groups (62.5%).
PMCID: PMC3245133  PMID: 22096231
10.  The PhyloFacts FAT-CAT web server: ortholog identification and function prediction using fast approximate tree classification 
Nucleic Acids Research  2013;41(Web Server issue):W242-W248.
The PhyloFacts ‘Fast Approximate Tree Classification’ (FAT-CAT) web server provides a novel approach to ortholog identification using subtree hidden Markov model-based placement of protein sequences to phylogenomic orthology groups in the PhyloFacts database. Results on a data set of microbial, plant and animal proteins demonstrate FAT-CAT’s high precision at separating orthologs and paralogs and robustness to promiscuous domains. We also present results documenting the precision of ortholog identification based on subtree hidden Markov model scoring. The FAT-CAT phylogenetic placement is used to derive a functional annotation for the query, including confidence scores and drill-down capabilities. PhyloFacts’ broad taxonomic and functional coverage, with >7.3 M proteins from across the Tree of Life, enables FAT-CAT to predict orthologs and assign function for most sequence inputs. Four pipeline parameter presets are provided to handle different sequence types, including partial sequences and proteins containing promiscuous domains; users can also modify individual parameters. PhyloFacts trees matching the query can be viewed interactively online using the PhyloScope Javascript tree viewer and are hyperlinked to various external databases. The FAT-CAT web server is available at
PMCID: PMC3692063  PMID: 23685612
11.  eggNOG 4.5: a hierarchical orthology framework with improved functional annotations for eukaryotic, prokaryotic and viral sequences 
Nucleic Acids Research  2015;44(Database issue):D286-D293.
eggNOG is a public resource that provides Orthologous Groups (OGs) of proteins at different taxonomic levels, each with integrated and summarized functional annotations. Developments since the latest public release include changes to the algorithm for creating OGs across taxonomic levels, making nested groups hierarchically consistent. This allows for a better propagation of functional terms across nested OGs and led to the novel annotation of 95 890 previously uncharacterized OGs, increasing overall annotation coverage from 67% to 72%. The functional annotations of OGs have been expanded to also provide Gene Ontology terms, KEGG pathways and SMART/Pfam domains for each group. Moreover, eggNOG now provides pairwise orthology relationships within OGs based on analysis of phylogenetic trees. We have also incorporated a framework for quickly mapping novel sequences to OGs based on precomputed HMM profiles. Finally, eggNOG version 4.5 incorporates a novel data set spanning 2605 viral OGs, covering 5228 proteins from 352 viral proteomes. All data are accessible for bulk downloading, as a web-service, and through a completely redesigned web interface. The new access points provide faster searches and a number of new browsing and visualization capabilities, facilitating the needs of both experts and less experienced users. eggNOG v4.5 is available at
PMCID: PMC4702882  PMID: 26582926
12.  Automated Protein Subfamily Identification and Classification 
PLoS Computational Biology  2007;3(8):e160.
Function prediction by homology is widely used to provide preliminary functional annotations for genes for which experimental evidence of function is unavailable or limited. This approach has been shown to be prone to systematic error, including percolation of annotation errors through sequence databases. Phylogenomic analysis avoids these errors in function prediction but has been difficult to automate for high-throughput application. To address this limitation, we present a computationally efficient pipeline for phylogenomic classification of proteins. This pipeline uses the SCI-PHY (Subfamily Classification in Phylogenomics) algorithm for automatic subfamily identification, followed by subfamily hidden Markov model (HMM) construction. A simple and computationally efficient scoring scheme using family and subfamily HMMs enables classification of novel sequences to protein families and subfamilies. Sequences representing entirely novel subfamilies are differentiated from those that can be classified to subfamilies in the input training set using logistic regression. Subfamily HMM parameters are estimated using an information-sharing protocol, enabling subfamilies containing even a single sequence to benefit from conservation patterns defining the family as a whole or in related subfamilies. SCI-PHY subfamilies correspond closely to functional subtypes defined by experts and to conserved clades found by phylogenetic analysis. Extensive comparisons of subfamily and family HMM performances show that subfamily HMMs dramatically improve the separation between homologous and non-homologous proteins in sequence database searches. Subfamily HMMs also provide extremely high specificity of classification and can be used to predict entirely novel subtypes. The SCI-PHY Web server at allows users to upload a multiple sequence alignment for subfamily identification and subfamily HMM construction. Biologists wishing to provide their own subfamily definitions can do so. Source code is available on the Web page. The Berkeley Phylogenomics Group PhyloFacts resource contains pre-calculated subfamily predictions and subfamily HMMs for more than 40,000 protein families and domains at
Author Summary
Predicting the function of a gene or protein (gene product) from its primary sequence is a major focus of many bioinformatics methods. In this paper, the authors present a three-stage computational pipeline for gene functional annotation in an evolutionary framework to reduce the systematic errors associated with the standard protocol (annotation transfer from predicted homologs). In the first stage, a functional hierarchy is estimated for each protein family and subfamilies are identified. In the second stage, hidden Markov models (HMMs) (a type of statistical model) are constructed for each subfamily to model both the family-defining and subfamily-specific signatures. In the third stage, subfamily HMMs are used to assign novel sequences to functional subtypes. Extensive experimental validation of these methods shows that predicted subfamilies correspond closely to functional subtypes identified by experts and to conserved clades in phylogenetic trees; that subfamily HMMs increase the separation between homologs and non-homologs in sequence database discrimination tests relative to the use of a single HMM for the family; and that specificity of classification of novel sequences to subfamilies using subfamily HMMs is near perfect (1.5% error rate when sequences are assigned to the top-scoring subfamily, and <0.5% error rate when logistic regression of scores is employed).
PMCID: PMC1950344  PMID: 17708678
13.  Databases of homologous gene families for comparative genomics 
BMC Bioinformatics  2009;10(Suppl 6):S3.
Comparative genomics is a central step in many sequence analysis studies, from gene annotation and the identification of new functional regions in genomes, to the study of evolutionary processes at the molecular level (speciation, single gene or whole genome duplications, etc.) and phylogenetics. In that context, databases providing users high quality homologous families and sequence alignments as well as phylogenetic trees based on state of the art algorithms are becoming indispensable.
We developed an automated procedure allowing massive all-against-all similarity searches, gene clustering, multiple alignments computation, and phylogenetic trees construction and reconciliation. The application of this procedure to a very large set of sequences is possible through parallel computing on a large computer cluster.
Three databases were developed using this procedure: HOVERGEN, HOGENOM and HOMOLENS. These databases share the same architecture but differ in their content. HOVERGEN contains sequences from vertebrates, HOGENOM is mainly devoted to completely sequenced microbial organisms, and HOMOLENS is devoted to metazoan genomes from Ensembl. Access to the databases is provided through Web query forms, a general retrieval system and a client-server graphical interface. The later can be used to perform tree-pattern based searches allowing, among other uses, to retrieve sets of orthologous genes. The three databases, as well as the software required to build and query them, can be used or downloaded from the PBIL (Pôle Bioinformatique Lyonnais) site at .
PMCID: PMC2697650  PMID: 19534752
14.  eggNOG v2.0: extending the evolutionary genealogy of genes with enhanced non-supervised orthologous groups, species and functional annotations 
Nucleic Acids Research  2009;38(Database issue):D190-D195.
The identification of orthologous relationships forms the basis for most comparative genomics studies. Here, we present the second version of the eggNOG database, which contains orthologous groups (OGs) constructed through identification of reciprocal best BLAST matches and triangular linkage clustering. We applied this procedure to 630 complete genomes (529 bacteria, 46 archaea and 55 eukaryotes), which is a 2-fold increase relative to the previous version. The pipeline yielded 224 847 OGs, including 9724 extended versions of the original COG and KOG. We computed OGs for different levels of the tree of life; in addition to the species groups included in our first release (i.e. fungi, metazoa, insects, vertebrates and mammals), we have now constructed OGs for archaea, fishes, rodents and primates. We automatically annotate the non-supervised orthologous groups (NOGs) with functional descriptions, protein domains, and functional categories as defined initially for the COG/KOG database. In-depth analysis is facilitated by precomputed high-quality multiple sequence alignments and maximum-likelihood trees for each of the available OGs. Altogether, eggNOG covers 2 242 035 proteins (built from 2 590 259 proteins) and provides a broad functional description for at least 1 966 709 (88%) of them. Users can access the complete set of orthologous groups via a web interface at:
PMCID: PMC2808932  PMID: 19900971
15.  flyDIVaS: A Comparative Genomics Resource for Drosophila Divergence and Selection 
G3: Genes|Genomes|Genetics  2016;6(8):2355-2363.
With arguably the best finished and expertly annotated genome assembly, Drosophila melanogaster is a formidable genetics model to study all aspects of biology. Nearly a decade ago, the 12 Drosophila genomes project expanded D. melanogaster’s breadth as a comparative model through the community-development of an unprecedented genus- and genome-wide comparative resource. However, since its inception, these datasets for evolutionary inference and biological discovery have become increasingly outdated, outmoded, and inaccessible. Here, we provide an updated and upgradable comparative genomics resource of Drosophila divergence and selection, flyDIVaS, based on the latest genomic assemblies, curated FlyBase annotations, and recent OrthoDB orthology calls. flyDIVaS is an online database containing D. melanogaster-centric orthologous gene sets, CDS and protein alignments, divergence statistics (% gaps, dN, dS, dN/dS), and codon-based tests of positive Darwinian selection. Out of 13,920 protein-coding D. melanogaster genes, ∼80% have one aligned ortholog in the closely related species, D. simulans, and ∼50% have 1–1 12-way alignments in the original 12 sequenced species that span over 80 million yr of divergence. Genes and their orthologs can be chosen from four different taxonomic datasets differing in phylogenetic depth and coverage density, and visualized via interactive alignments and phylogenetic trees. Users can also batch download entire comparative datasets. A functional survey finds conserved mitotic and neural genes, highly diverged immune and reproduction-related genes, more conspicuous signals of divergence across tissue-specific genes, and an enrichment of positive selection among highly diverged genes. flyDIVaS will be regularly updated and can be freely accessed at We encourage researchers to regularly use this resource as a tool for biological inference and discovery, and in their classrooms to help train the next generation of biologists to creatively use such genomic big data resources in an integrative manner.
PMCID: PMC4978890  PMID: 27226167
conserved genes; rapid evolution; dN/dS; adaptation
16.  ncRNA orthologies in the vertebrate lineage 
Annotation of orthologous and paralogous genes is necessary for many aspects of evolutionary analysis. Methods to infer these homology relationships have traditionally focused on protein-coding genes and evolutionary models used by these methods normally assume the positions in the protein evolve independently. However, as our appreciation for the roles of non-coding RNA genes has increased, consistently annotated sets of orthologous and paralogous ncRNA genes are increasingly needed. At the same time, methods such as PHASE or RAxML have implemented substitution models that consider pairs of sites to enable proper modelling of the loops and other features of RNA secondary structure. Here, we present a comprehensive analysis pipeline for the automatic detection of orthologues and paralogues for ncRNA genes. We focus on gene families represented in Rfam and for which a specific covariance model is provided. For each family ncRNA genes found in all Ensembl species are aligned using Infernal, and several trees are built using different substitution models. In parallel, a genomic alignment that includes the ncRNA genes and their flanking sequence regions is built with PRANK. This alignment is used to create two additional phylogenetic trees using the neighbour-joining (NJ) and maximum-likelihood (ML) methods. The trees arising from both the ncRNA and genomic alignments are merged using TreeBeST, which reconciles them with the species tree in order to identify speciation and duplication events. The final tree is used to infer the orthologues and paralogues following Fitch's definition. We also determine gene gain and loss events for each family using CAFE. All data are accessible through the Ensembl Comparative Genomics (‘Compara’) API, on our FTP site and are fully integrated in the Ensembl genome browser, where they can be accessed in a user-friendly manner.
Database URL:
PMCID: PMC4792531  PMID: 26980512
17.  The Impact of Outgroup Choice and Missing Data on Major Seed Plant Phylogenetics Using Genome-Wide EST Data 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(6):e5764.
Genome level analyses have enhanced our view of phylogenetics in many areas of the tree of life. With the production of whole genome DNA sequences of hundreds of organisms and large-scale EST databases a large number of candidate genes for inclusion into phylogenetic analysis have become available. In this work, we exploit the burgeoning genomic data being generated for plant genomes to address one of the more important plant phylogenetic questions concerning the hierarchical relationships of the several major seed plant lineages (angiosperms, Cycadales, Gingkoales, Gnetales, and Coniferales), which continues to be a work in progress, despite numerous studies using single, few or several genes and morphology datasets. Although most recent studies support the notion that gymnosperms and angiosperms are monophyletic and sister groups, they differ on the topological arrangements within each major group.
We exploited the EST database to construct a supermatrix of DNA sequences (over 1,200 concatenated orthologous gene partitions for 17 taxa) to examine non-flowering seed plant relationships. This analysis employed programs that offer rapid and robust orthology determination of novel, short sequences from plant ESTs based on reference seed plant genomes. Our phylogenetic analysis retrieved an unbiased (with respect to gene choice), well-resolved and highly supported phylogenetic hypothesis that was robust to various outgroup combinations.
We evaluated character support and the relative contribution of numerous variables (e.g. gene number, missing data, partitioning schemes, taxon sampling and outgroup choice) on tree topology, stability and support metrics. Our results indicate that while missing characters and order of addition of genes to an analysis do not influence branch support, inadequate taxon sampling and limited choice of outgroup(s) can lead to spurious inference of phylogeny when dealing with phylogenomic scale data sets. As expected, support and resolution increases significantly as more informative characters are added, until reaching a threshold, beyond which support metrics stabilize, and the effect of adding conflicting characters is minimized.
PMCID: PMC2685480  PMID: 19503618
18.  PhylomeDB v3.0: an expanding repository of genome-wide collections of trees, alignments and phylogeny-based orthology and paralogy predictions 
Nucleic Acids Research  2010;39(Database issue):D556-D560.
The growing availability of complete genomic sequences from diverse species has brought about the need to scale up phylogenomic analyses, including the reconstruction of large collections of phylogenetic trees. Here, we present the third version of PhylomeDB (, a public database for genome-wide collections of gene phylogenies (phylomes). Currently, PhylomeDB is the largest phylogenetic repository and hosts 17 phylomes, comprising 416 093 trees and 165 840 alignments. It is also a major source for phylogeny-based orthology and paralogy predictions, covering about 5 million proteins in 717 fully-sequenced genomes. For each protein-coding gene in a seed genome, the database provides original and processed alignments, phylogenetic trees derived from various methods and phylogeny-based predictions of orthology and paralogy relationships. The new version of phylomeDB has been extended with novel data access and visualization features, including the possibility of programmatic access. Available seed species include model organisms such as human, yeast, Escherichia coli or Arabidopsis thaliana, but also alternative model species such as the human pathogen Candida albicans, or the pea aphid Acyrtosiphon pisum. Finally, PhylomeDB is currently being used by several genome sequencing projects that couple the genome annotation process with the reconstruction of the corresponding phylome, a strategy that provides relevant evolutionary insights.
PMCID: PMC3013701  PMID: 21075798
19.  eggNOG v4.0: nested orthology inference across 3686 organisms 
Nucleic Acids Research  2013;42(Database issue):D231-D239.
With the increasing availability of various ‘omics data, high-quality orthology assignment is crucial for evolutionary and functional genomics studies. We here present the fourth version of the eggNOG database (available at that derives nonsupervised orthologous groups (NOGs) from complete genomes, and then applies a comprehensive characterization and analysis pipeline to the resulting gene families. Compared with the previous version, we have more than tripled the underlying species set to cover 3686 organisms, keeping track with genome project completions while prioritizing the inclusion of high-quality genomes to minimize error propagation from incomplete proteome sets. Major technological advances include (i) a robust and scalable procedure for the identification and inclusion of high-quality genomes, (ii) provision of orthologous groups for 107 different taxonomic levels compared with 41 in eggNOGv3, (iii) identification and annotation of particularly closely related orthologous groups, facilitating analysis of related gene families, (iv) improvements of the clustering and functional annotation approach, (v) adoption of a revised tree building procedure based on the multiple alignments generated during the process and (vi) implementation of quality control procedures throughout the entire pipeline. As in previous versions, eggNOGv4 provides multiple sequence alignments and maximum-likelihood trees, as well as broad functional annotation. Users can access the complete database of orthologous groups via a web interface, as well as through bulk download.
PMCID: PMC3964997  PMID: 24297252
20.  Ortho2ExpressMatrix—a web server that interprets cross-species gene expression data by gene family information 
BMC Genomics  2011;12:483.
The study of gene families is pivotal for the understanding of gene evolution across different organisms and such phylogenetic background is often used to infer biochemical functions of genes. Modern high-throughput experiments offer the possibility to analyze the entire transcriptome of an organism; however, it is often difficult to deduct functional information from that data.
To improve functional interpretation of gene expression we introduce Ortho2ExpressMatrix, a novel tool that integrates complex gene family information, computed from sequence similarity, with comparative gene expression profiles of two pre-selected biological objects: gene families are displayed with two-dimensional matrices. Parameters of the tool are object type (two organisms, two individuals, two tissues, etc.), type of computational gene family inference, experimental meta-data, microarray platform, gene annotation level and genome build. Family information in Ortho2ExpressMatrix bases on computationally different protein family approaches such as EnsemblCompara, InParanoid, SYSTERS and Ensembl Family. Currently, respective all-against-all associations are available for five species: human, mouse, worm, fruit fly and yeast. Additionally, microRNA expression can be examined with respect to miRBase or TargetScan families. The visualization, which is typical for Ortho2ExpressMatrix, is performed as matrix view that displays functional traits of genes (differential expression) as well as sequence similarity of protein family members (BLAST e-values) in colour codes. Such translations are intended to facilitate the user's perception of the research object.
Ortho2ExpressMatrix integrates gene family information with genome-wide expression data in order to enhance functional interpretation of high-throughput analyses on diseases, environmental factors, or genetic modification or compound treatment experiments. The tool explores differential gene expression in the light of orthology, paralogy and structure of gene families up to the point of ambiguity analyses. Results can be used for filtering and prioritization in functional genomic, biomedical and systems biology applications. The web server is freely accessible at
PMCID: PMC3202273  PMID: 21970648
21.  Fast and accurate branch lengths estimation for phylogenomic trees 
BMC Bioinformatics  2016;17:23.
Branch lengths are an important attribute of phylogenetic trees, providing essential information for many studies in evolutionary biology. Yet, part of the current methodology to reconstruct a phylogeny from genomic information — namely supertree methods — focuses on the topology or structure of the phylogenetic tree, rather than the evolutionary divergences associated to it. Moreover, accurate methods to estimate branch lengths — typically based on probabilistic analysis of a concatenated alignment — are limited by large demands in memory and computing time, and may become impractical when the data sets are too large.
Here, we present a novel phylogenomic distance-based method, named ERaBLE (Evolutionary Rates and Branch Length Estimation), to estimate the branch lengths of a given reference topology, and the relative evolutionary rates of the genes employed in the analysis. ERaBLE uses as input data a potentially very large collection of distance matrices, where each matrix is obtained from a different genomic region — either directly from its sequence alignment, or indirectly from a gene tree inferred from the alignment. Our experiments show that ERaBLE is very fast and fairly accurate when compared to other possible approaches for the same tasks. Specifically, it efficiently and accurately deals with large data sets, such as the OrthoMaM v8 database, composed of 6,953 exons from up to 40 mammals.
ERaBLE may be used as a complement to supertree methods — or it may provide an efficient alternative to maximum likelihood analysis of concatenated alignments — to estimate branch lengths from phylogenomic data sets.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12859-015-0821-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4705742  PMID: 26744021
Phylogenomics; Supertree; Branch lengths; Gene rates; Distance-based; Least-squares
22.  OrthoDB: the hierarchical catalog of eukaryotic orthologs 
Nucleic Acids Research  2007;36(Database issue):D271-D275.
The concept of orthology is widely used to relate genes across different species using comparative genomics, and it provides the basis for inferring gene function. Here we present the web accessible OrthoDB database that catalogs groups of orthologous genes in a hierarchical manner, at each radiation of the species phylogeny, from more general groups to more fine-grained delineations between closely related species. We used a COG-like and Inparanoid-like ortholog delineation procedure on the basis of all-against-all Smith-Waterman sequence comparisons to analyze 58 eukaryotic genomes, focusing on vertebrates, insects and fungi to facilitate further comparative studies. The database is freely available at
PMCID: PMC2238902  PMID: 17947323
23.  InParanoid 7: new algorithms and tools for eukaryotic orthology analysis 
Nucleic Acids Research  2009;38(Database issue):D196-D203.
The InParanoid project gathers proteomes of completely sequenced eukaryotic species plus Escherichia coli and calculates pairwise ortholog relationships among them. The new release 7.0 of the database has grown by an order of magnitude over the previous version and now includes 100 species and their collective 1.3 million proteins organized into 42.7 million pairwise ortholog groups. The InParanoid algorithm itself has been revised and is now both more specific and sensitive. Based on results from our recent benchmarking of low-complexity filters in homology assignment, a two-pass BLAST approach was developed that makes use of high-precision compositional score matrix adjustment, but avoids the alignment truncation that sometimes follows. We have also updated the InParanoid web site ( Several features have been added, the response times have been improved and the site now sports a new, clearer look. As the number of ortholog databases has grown, it has become difficult to compare among these resources due to a lack of standardized source data and incompatible representations of ortholog relationships. To facilitate data exchange and comparisons among ortholog databases, we have developed and are making available two XML schemas: SeqXML for the input sequences and OrthoXML for the output ortholog clusters.
PMCID: PMC2808972  PMID: 19892828
24.  Inferring Hierarchical Orthologous Groups from Orthologous Gene Pairs 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e53786.
Hierarchical orthologous groups are defined as sets of genes that have descended from a single common ancestor within a taxonomic range of interest. Identifying such groups is useful in a wide range of contexts, including inference of gene function, study of gene evolution dynamics and comparative genomics. Hierarchical orthologous groups can be derived from reconciled gene/species trees but, this being a computationally costly procedure, many phylogenomic databases work on the basis of pairwise gene comparisons instead (“graph-based” approach). To our knowledge, there is only one published algorithm for graph-based hierarchical group inference, but both its theoretical justification and performance in practice are as of yet largely uncharacterised. We establish a formal correspondence between the orthology graph and hierarchical orthologous groups. Based on that, we devise GETHOGs (“Graph-based Efficient Technique for Hierarchical Orthologous Groups”), a novel algorithm to infer hierarchical groups directly from the orthology graph, thus without needing gene tree inference nor gene/species tree reconciliation. GETHOGs is shown to correctly reconstruct hierarchical orthologous groups when applied to perfect input, and several extensions with stringency parameters are provided to deal with imperfect input data. We demonstrate its competitiveness using both simulated and empirical data. GETHOGs is implemented as a part of the freely-available OMA standalone package ( Furthermore, hierarchical groups inferred by GETHOGs (“OMA HOGs”) on >1,000 genomes can be interactively queried via the OMA browser (
PMCID: PMC3544860  PMID: 23342000
25.  PhylomeDB: a database for genome-wide collections of gene phylogenies 
Nucleic Acids Research  2007;36(Database issue):D491-D496.
The complete collection of evolutionary histories of all genes in a genome, also known as phylome, constitutes a valuable source of information. The reconstruction of phylomes has been previously prevented by large demands of time and computer power, but is now feasible thanks to recent developments in computers and algorithms. To provide a publicly available repository of complete phylomes that allows researchers to access and store large-scale phylogenomic analyses, we have developed PhylomeDB. PhylomeDB is a database of complete phylomes derived for different genomes within a specific taxonomic range. All phylomes in the database are built using a high-quality phylogenetic pipeline that includes evolutionary model testing and alignment trimming phases. For each genome, PhylomeDB provides the alignments, phylogentic trees and tree-based orthology predictions for every single encoded protein. The current version of PhylomeDB includes the phylomes of Human, the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae and the bacterium Escherichia coli, comprising a total of 32 289 seed sequences with their corresponding alignments and 172 324 phylogenetic trees. PhylomeDB can be publicly accessed at
PMCID: PMC2238872  PMID: 17962297

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