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.
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.
Motivation: A typical PSI-BLAST search consists of iterative scanning and alignment of a large sequence database during which a scoring profile is progressively built and refined. Such a profile can also be stored and used to search against a different database of sequences. Using it to search against a database of consensus rather than native sequences is a simple add-on that boosts performance surprisingly well. The improvement comes at a price: we hypothesized that random alignment score statistics would differ between native and consensus sequences. Thus PSI-BLAST-based profile searches against consensus sequences might incorrectly estimate statistical significance of alignment scores. In addition, iterative searches against consensus databases may fail. Here, we addressed these challenges in an attempt to harness the full power of the combination of PSI-BLAST and consensus sequences.
Results: We studied alignment score statistics for various types of consensus sequences. In general, the score distribution parameters of profile-based consensus sequence alignments differed significantly from those derived for the native sequences. PSI-BLAST partially compensated for the parameter variation. We have identified a protocol for building specialized consensus sequences that significantly improved search sensitivity and preserved score distribution parameters. As a result, PSI-BLAST profiles can be used to search specialized consensus sequences without sacrificing estimates of statistical significance. We also provided results indicating that iterative PSI-BLAST searches against consensus sequences could work very well. Overall, we showed how a very popular and effective method could be used to identify significantly more relevant similarities among protein sequences.
A typical PSI-BLAST search consists of iterative scanning and alignment of a large sequence database during which a scoring profile is progressively built and refined. Such a profile can also be stored and used to search against a different database of sequences. Using it to search against a database of consensus rather than native sequences is a simple add-on that boosts performance surprisingly well. The improvement comes at a price: we hypothesized that random alignment score statistics would differ between native and consensus sequences. Thus PSI-BLAST-based profile searches against consensus sequences might incorrectly estimate statistical significance of alignment scores. In addition, iterative searches against consensus databases may fail. Here, we addressed these challenges in an attempt to harness the full power of the combination of PSI-BLAST and consensus sequences.
We studied alignment score statistics for various types of consensus sequences. In general, the score distribution parameters of profile-based consensus sequence alignments differed significantly from those derived for the native sequences. PSI-BLAST partially compensated for the parameter variation. We have identified a protocol for building specialized consensus sequences that significantly improved search sensitivity and preserved score distribution parameters. As a result, PSI-BLAST profiles can be used to search specialized consensus sequences without sacrificing estimates of statistical significance. We also provided results indicating that iterative PSI-BLAST searches against consensus sequences could work very well. Overall, we showed how a widely popular and effective method could be used to identify significantly more relevant similarities among protein sequences.
The development of remote homology detection methods is a challenging area in Bioinformatics. Sequence analysis-based
approaches that address this problem have employed the use of profiles, templates and Hidden Markov Models (HMMs). These
methods often face limitations due to poor sequence similarities and non-uniform sequence dispersion in protein sequence
space. Search procedures are often asymmetrical due to over or under-representation of some protein families and outliers
often remain undetected. Intermediate sequences that share high similarities with more than one protein can help overcome
such problems. Methods such as MulPSSM and Cascade PSI-BLAST that employ intermediate sequences achieve better coverage of
members in searches. Others employ peptide modules or conserved patterns of motifs or residues and are effective in overcoming
dependencies on high sequence similarity to establish homology by using conserved patterns in searches. We review some of
these recent methods developed in India in the recent past.
Sequence analysis; Remote homology detection; PSI-BLAST; Protein Evolution
A SIB-BLAST web server (http://sib-blast.osc.edu) has been established for investigators to use the SimpleIsBeautiful (SIB) algorithm for sequence-based homology detection. SIB was developed to overcome the model corruption frequently observed in the later iterations of PSI-BLAST searches. The algorithm compares resultant hits from the second iteration to the final iteration of a PSI-BLAST search, calculates the figure of merit for each ‘overlapped’ hit and re-ranks the hits according to their figure of merit. By validating hits generated from the last profile against hits from the first profile when the model is least corrupted, the true and false positives are better delineated, which in turn, improves the accuracy of iterative PSI-BLAST searches. Notably, this improvement to PSI-BLAST comes at minimal computational cost as SIB-BLAST utilizes existing results already produced in a PSI-BLAST search.
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.
Accurate estimation of statistical significance of a pairwise alignment is an important problem in sequence comparison. Recently, a comparative study of pairwise statistical significance with database statistical significance was conducted. In this paper, we extend the earlier work on pairwise statistical significance by incorporating with it the use of multiple parameter sets.
Results for a knowledge discovery application of homology detection reveal that using multiple parameter sets for pairwise statistical significance estimates gives better coverage than using a single parameter set, at least at some error levels. Further, the results of pairwise statistical significance using multiple parameter sets are shown to be significantly better than database statistical significance estimates reported by BLAST and PSI-BLAST, and comparable and at times significantly better than SSEARCH. Using non-zero parameter set change penalty values give better performance than zero penalty.
The fact that the homology detection performance does not degrade when using multiple parameter sets is a strong evidence for the validity of the assumption that the alignment score distribution follows an extreme value distribution even when using multiple parameter sets. Parameter set change penalty is a useful parameter for alignment using multiple parameter sets. Pairwise statistical significance using multiple parameter sets can be effectively used to determine the relatedness of a (or a few) pair(s) of sequences without performing a time-consuming database search.
The BLAST programs are widely used tools for searching protein and DNA databases for sequence similarities. For protein comparisons, a variety of definitional, algorithmic and statistical refinements described here permits the execution time of the BLAST programs to be decreased substantially while enhancing their sensitivity to weak similarities. A new criterion for triggering the extension of word hits, combined with a new heuristic for generating gapped alignments, yields a gapped BLAST program that runs at approximately three times the speed of the original. In addition, a method is introduced for automatically combining statistically significant alignments produced by BLAST into a position-specific score matrix, and searching the database using this matrix. The resulting Position-Specific Iterated BLAST (PSI-BLAST) program runs at approximately the same speed per iteration as gapped BLAST, but in many cases is much more sensitive to weak but biologically relevant sequence similarities. PSI-BLAST is used to uncover several new and interesting members of the BRCT superfamily.
Prediction of bacterial virulent protein sequences has implications for identification and characterization of novel virulence-associated factors, finding novel drug/vaccine targets against proteins indispensable to pathogenicity, and understanding the complex virulence mechanism in pathogens.
In the present study we propose a bacterial virulent protein prediction method based on bi-layer cascade Support Vector Machine (SVM). The first layer SVM classifiers were trained and optimized with different individual protein sequence features like amino acid composition, dipeptide composition (occurrences of the possible pairs of ith and i+1th amino acid residues), higher order dipeptide composition (pairs of ith and i+2nd residues) and Position Specific Iterated BLAST (PSI-BLAST) generated Position Specific Scoring Matrices (PSSM). In addition, a similarity-search based module was also developed using a dataset of virulent and non-virulent proteins as BLAST database. A five-fold cross-validation technique was used for the evaluation of various prediction strategies in this study. The results from the first layer (SVM scores and PSI-BLAST result) were cascaded to the second layer SVM classifier to train and generate the final classifier. The cascade SVM classifier was able to accomplish an accuracy of 81.8%, covering 86% area in the Receiver Operator Characteristic (ROC) plot, better than that of either of the layer one SVM classifiers based on single or multiple sequence features.
VirulentPred is a SVM based method to predict bacterial virulent proteins sequences, which can be used to screen virulent proteins in proteomes. Together with experimentally verified virulent proteins, several putative, non annotated and hypothetical protein sequences have been predicted to be high scoring virulent proteins by the prediction method. VirulentPred is available as a freely accessible World Wide Web server – VirulentPred, at http://bioinfo.icgeb.res.in/virulent/.
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.
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.
SCANPS performs iterative profile searching similar to PSI-BLAST but with full dynamic programing on each cycle and on-the-fly estimation of significance. This combination gives good sensitivity and selectivity that outperforms PSI-BLAST in domain-searching benchmarks. Although computationally expensive, SCANPS exploits onchip parallelism (MMX and SSE2 instructions on Intel chips) as well as MPI parallelism to give acceptable turnround times even for large databases. A web server developed to run SCANPS searches is now available at http://www.compbio.dundee.ac.uk/www-scanps. The server interface allows a range of different protein sequence databases to be searched including the SCOP database of protein domains. The server provides the user with regularly updated versions of the main protein sequence databases and is backed up by significant computing resources which ensure that searches are performed rapidly. For SCOP searches, the results may be viewed in a new tree-based representation that reflects the structure of the SCOP hierarchy; this aids the user in placing each hit in the context of its SCOP classification and understanding its relationship to other domains in SCOP.
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 .
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
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 .
Many DNA regulatory elements occur as multiple instances within a target promoter. Gibbs sampling programs for finding DNA regulatory elements de novo can be prohibitively slow in locating all instances of such an element in a sequence set.
We describe an improvement to the A-GLAM computer program, which predicts regulatory elements within DNA sequences with Gibbs sampling. The improvement adds an optional "scanning step" after Gibbs sampling. Gibbs sampling produces a position specific scoring matrix (PSSM). The new scanning step resembles an iterative PSI-BLAST search based on the PSSM. First, it assigns an "individual score" to each subsequence of appropriate length within the input sequences using the initial PSSM. Second, it computes an E-value from each individual score, to assess the agreement between the corresponding subsequence and the PSSM. Third, it permits subsequences with E-values falling below a threshold to contribute to the underlying PSSM, which is then updated using the Bayesian calculus. A-GLAM iterates its scanning step to convergence, at which point no new subsequences contribute to the PSSM. After convergence, A-GLAM reports predicted regulatory elements within each sequence in order of increasing E-values, so users have a statistical evaluation of the predicted elements in a convenient presentation. Thus, although the Gibbs sampling step in A-GLAM finds at most one regulatory element per input sequence, the scanning step can now rapidly locate further instances of the element in each sequence.
Datasets from experiments determining the binding sites of transcription factors were used to evaluate the improvement to A-GLAM. Typically, the datasets included several sequences containing multiple instances of a regulatory motif. The improvements to A-GLAM permitted it to predict the multiple instances.
Summary: RefProtDom provides a set of divergent query domains, originally selected from Pfam, and full-length proteins containing their homologous domains, with diverse architectures, for evaluating pair-wise and iterative sequence similarity searches. Pfam homology and domain boundary annotations in the target library were supplemented using local and semi-global searches, PSI-BLAST searches, and SCOP and CATH classifications.
Availability: RefProtDom is available from http://faculty.virginia.edu/wrpearson/fasta/PUBS/gonzalez09a
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The large numbers of protein sequences generated by whole genome sequencing projects require rapid and accurate methods of annotation. The detection of homology through computational sequence analysis is a powerful tool in determining the complex evolutionary and functional relationships that exist between proteins. Homology search algorithms employ amino acid substitution matrices to detect similarity between proteins sequences. The substitution matrices in common use today are constructed using sequences aligned without reference to protein structure. Here we present amino acid substitution matrices constructed from the alignment of a large number of protein domain structures from the structural classification of proteins (SCOP) database. We show that when incorporated into the homology search algorithms BLAST and PSI-blast, the structure-based substitution matrices enhance the efficacy of detecting remote homologs.
computational biology; protein homology; amino acid substitution matrix; protein structure
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/).
All-versus-all BLAST, which searches for homologous pairs of sequences in a database of proteins, is used to identify potential orthologs, to find new protein families, and to provide rapid access to these homology relationships. As DNA sequencing accelerates and data sets grow, all-versus-all BLAST has become computationally demanding.
We present FastBLAST, a heuristic replacement for all-versus-all BLAST that relies on alignments of proteins to known families, obtained from tools such as PSI-BLAST and HMMer. FastBLAST avoids most of the work of all-versus-all BLAST by taking advantage of these alignments and by clustering similar sequences. FastBLAST runs in two stages: the first stage identifies additional families and aligns them, and the second stage quickly identifies the homologs of a query sequence, based on the alignments of the families, before generating pairwise alignments. On 6.53 million proteins from the non-redundant Genbank database (“NR”), FastBLAST identifies new families 25 times faster than all-versus-all BLAST. Once the first stage is completed, FastBLAST identifies homologs for the average query in less than 5 seconds (8.6 times faster than BLAST) and gives nearly identical results. For hits above 70 bits, FastBLAST identifies 98% of the top 3,250 hits per query.
FastBLAST enables research groups that do not have supercomputers to analyze large protein sequence data sets. FastBLAST is open source software and is available at http://microbesonline.org/fastblast.
Most proteins from higher organisms are known to be multi-domain proteins and contain substantial numbers of intrinsically disordered (ID) regions. To analyse such protein sequences, those from human for instance, we developed a special protein-structure-prediction pipeline and accumulated the products in the Structure Atlas of Human Genome (SAHG) database at http://bird.cbrc.jp/sahg. With the pipeline, human proteins were examined by local alignment methods (BLAST, PSI-BLAST and Smith–Waterman profile–profile alignment), global–local alignment methods (FORTE) and prediction tools for ID regions (POODLE-S) and homology modeling (MODELLER). Conformational changes of protein models upon ligand-binding were predicted by simultaneous modeling using templates of apo and holo forms. When there were no suitable templates for holo forms and the apo models were accurate, we prepared holo models using prediction methods for ligand-binding (eF-seek) and conformational change (the elastic network model and the linear response theory). Models are displayed as animated images. As of July 2010, SAHG contains 42 581 protein-domain models in approximately 24 900 unique human protein sequences from the RefSeq database. Annotation of models with functional information and links to other databases such as EzCatDB, InterPro or HPRD are also provided to facilitate understanding the protein structure-function relationships.
Summary: Profile-based similarity search is an essential step in structure-function studies of proteins. However, inclusion of non-homologous sequence segments into a profile causes its corruption and results in false positives. Profile corruption is common in multidomain proteins, and single domains with long insertions are a significant source of errors. We developed a procedure (HangOut) that, for a single domain with specified insertion position, cleans erroneously extended PSI-BLAST alignments to generate better profiles.
Availability: HangOut is implemented in Python 2.3 and runs on all Unix-compatible platforms. The source code is available under the GNU GPL license at http://prodata.swmed.edu/HangOut/
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Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
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.
The MPI Bioinformatics Toolkit is an interactive web service which offers access to a great variety of public and in-house bioinformatics tools. They are grouped into different sections that support sequence searches, multiple alignment, secondary and tertiary structure prediction and classification. Several public tools are offered in customized versions that extend their functionality. For example, PSI-BLAST can be run against regularly updated standard databases, customized user databases or selectable sets of genomes. Another tool, Quick2D, integrates the results of various secondary structure, transmembrane and disorder prediction programs into one view. The Toolkit provides a friendly and intuitive user interface with an online help facility. As a key feature, various tools are interconnected so that the results of one tool can be forwarded to other tools. One could run PSI-BLAST, parse out a multiple alignment of selected hits and send the results to a cluster analysis tool. The Toolkit framework and the tools developed in-house will be packaged and freely available under the GNU Lesser General Public Licence (LGPL). The Toolkit can be accessed at .