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1.  PSI-Search: iterative HOE-reduced profile SSEARCH searching 
Bioinformatics  2012;28(12):1650-1651.
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 ( and SOAP and REST Web Services (
PMCID: PMC3371869  PMID: 22539666
2.  Database indexing for production MegaBLAST searches 
Bioinformatics  2008;24(16):1757-1764.
Motivation: The BLAST software package for sequence comparison speeds up homology search by preprocessing a query sequence into a lookup table. Numerous research studies have suggested that preprocessing the database instead would give better performance. However, production usage of sequence comparison methods that preprocess the database has been limited to programs such as BLAT and SSAHA that are designed to find matches when query and database subsequences are highly similar.
Results: We developed a new version of the MegaBLAST module of BLAST that does the initial phase of finding short seeds for matches by searching a database index. We also developed a program makembindex that preprocesses the database into a data structure for rapid seed searching. We show that the new ‘indexed MegaBLAST’ is faster than the ‘non-indexed’ version for most practical uses. We show that indexed MegaBLAST is faster than miBLAST, another implementation of BLAST nucleotide searching with a preprocessed database, for most of the 200 queries we tested. To deploy indexed MegaBLAST as part of NCBI'sWeb BLAST service, the storage of databases and the queueing mechanism were modified, so that some machines are now dedicated to serving queries for a specific database. The response time for such Web queries is now faster than it was when each computer handled queries for multiple databases.
Availability: The code for indexed MegaBLAST is part of the blastn program in the NCBI C++ toolkit. The preprocessor program makembindex is also in the toolkit. Indexed MegaBLAST has been used in production on NCBI's Web BLAST service to search one version of the human and mouse genomes since October 2007. The Linux command-line executables for blastn and makembindex, documentation, and some query sets used to carry out the tests described below are available in the directory:
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
PMCID: PMC2696921  PMID: 18567917
3.  FastBLAST: Homology Relationships for Millions of Proteins 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(10):e3589.
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.
Methodology/Principal Findings
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
PMCID: PMC2571987  PMID: 18974889
4.  VirulentPred: a SVM based prediction method for virulent proteins in bacterial pathogens 
BMC Bioinformatics  2008;9:62.
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
PMCID: PMC2254373  PMID: 18226234
5.  3PFDB - A database of Best Representative PSSM Profiles (BRPs) of Protein Families generated using a novel data mining approach 
BioData Mining  2009;2:8.
Protein families could be related to each other at broad levels that group them as superfamilies. These relationships are harder to detect at the sequence level due to high evolutionary divergence. Sequence searches are strongly directed and influenced by the best representatives of families that are viewed as starting points. PSSMs are useful approximations and mathematical representations of protein alignments, with wide array of applications in bioinformatics approaches like remote homology detection, protein family analysis, detection of new members and evolutionary modelling. Computational intensive searches have been performed using the neural network based sensitive sequence search method called FASSM to identify the Best Representative PSSMs for families reported in Pfam database version 22.
We designed a novel data mining approach for the assessment of individual sequences from a protein family to identify a single Best Representative PSSM profile (BRP) per protein family. Using the approach, a database of protein family-specific best representative PSSM profiles called 3PFDB has been developed. PSSM profiles in 3PFDB are curated using performance of individual sequence as a reference in a rigorous scoring and coverage analysis approach using FASSM. We have assessed the suitability of 10, 85,588 sequences derived from seed or full alignments reported in Pfam database (Version 22). Coverage analysis using FASSM method is used as the filtering step to identify the best representative sequence, starting from full length or domain sequences to generate the final profile for a given family. 3PFDB is a collection of best representative PSSM profiles of 8,524 protein families from Pfam database.
Availability of an approach to identify BRPs and a curated database of best representative PSI-BLAST derived PSSMs for 91.4% of current Pfam family will be a useful resource for the community to perform detailed and specific analysis using family-specific, best-representative PSSM profiles. 3PFDB can be accessed using the URL:
PMCID: PMC2801675  PMID: 19961575
6.  WImpiBLAST: Web Interface for mpiBLAST to Help Biologists Perform Large-Scale Annotation Using High Performance Computing 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(6):e101144.
The function of a newly sequenced gene can be discovered by determining its sequence homology with known proteins. BLAST is the most extensively used sequence analysis program for sequence similarity search in large databases of sequences. With the advent of next generation sequencing technologies it has now become possible to study genes and their expression at a genome-wide scale through RNA-seq and metagenome sequencing experiments. Functional annotation of all the genes is done by sequence similarity search against multiple protein databases. This annotation task is computationally very intensive and can take days to obtain complete results. The program mpiBLAST, an open-source parallelization of BLAST that achieves superlinear speedup, can be used to accelerate large-scale annotation by using supercomputers and high performance computing (HPC) clusters. Although many parallel bioinformatics applications using the Message Passing Interface (MPI) are available in the public domain, researchers are reluctant to use them due to lack of expertise in the Linux command line and relevant programming experience. With these limitations, it becomes difficult for biologists to use mpiBLAST for accelerating annotation. No web interface is available in the open-source domain for mpiBLAST. We have developed WImpiBLAST, a user-friendly open-source web interface for parallel BLAST searches. It is implemented in Struts 1.3 using a Java backbone and runs atop the open-source Apache Tomcat Server. WImpiBLAST supports script creation and job submission features and also provides a robust job management interface for system administrators. It combines script creation and modification features with job monitoring and management through the Torque resource manager on a Linux-based HPC cluster. Use case information highlights the acceleration of annotation analysis achieved by using WImpiBLAST. Here, we describe the WImpiBLAST web interface features and architecture, explain design decisions, describe workflows and provide a detailed analysis.
PMCID: PMC4076281  PMID: 24979410
7.  Construction of Customized Sub-Databases from NCBI-nr Database for Rapid Annotation of Huge Metagenomic Datasets Using a Combined BLAST and MEGAN Approach 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e59831.
We developed a fast method to construct local sub-databases from the NCBI-nr database for the quick similarity search and annotation of huge metagenomic datasets based on BLAST-MEGAN approach. A three-step sub-database annotation pipeline (SAP) was further proposed to conduct the annotation in a much more time-efficient way which required far less computational capacity than the direct NCBI-nr database BLAST-MEGAN approach. The 1st BLAST of SAP was conducted using the original metagenomic dataset against the constructed sub-database for a quick screening of candidate target sequences. Then, the candidate target sequences identified in the 1st BLAST were subjected to the 2nd BLAST against the whole NCBI-nr database. The BLAST results were finally annotated using MEGAN to filter out those mistakenly selected sequences in the 1st BLAST to guarantee the accuracy of the results. Based on the tests conducted in this study, SAP achieved a speedup of ∼150–385 times at the BLAST e-value of 1e–5, compared to the direct BLAST against NCBI-nr database. The annotation results of SAP are exactly in agreement with those of the direct NCBI-nr database BLAST-MEGAN approach, which is very time-consuming and computationally intensive. Selecting rigorous thresholds (e.g. e-value of 1e–10) would further accelerate SAP process. The SAP pipeline may also be coupled with novel similarity search tools (e.g. RAPsearch) other than BLAST to achieve even faster annotation of huge metagenomic datasets. Above all, this sub-database construction method and SAP pipeline provides a new time-efficient and convenient annotation similarity search strategy for laboratories without access to high performance computing facilities. SAP also offers a solution to high performance computing facilities for the processing of more similarity search tasks.
PMCID: PMC3613424  PMID: 23573212
8.  The effectiveness of position- and composition-specific gap costs for protein similarity searches 
Bioinformatics  2008;24(13):i15-i23.
Motivation: The flexibility in gap cost enjoyed by hidden Markov models (HMMs) is expected to afford them better retrieval accuracy than position-specific scoring matrices (PSSMs). We attempt to quantify the effect of more general gap parameters by separately examining the influence of position- and composition-specific gap scores, as well as by comparing the retrieval accuracy of the PSSMs constructed using an iterative procedure to that of the HMMs provided by Pfam and SUPERFAMILY, curated ensembles of multiple alignments.
Results: We found that position-specific gap penalties have an advantage over uniform gap costs. We did not explore optimizing distinct uniform gap costs for each query. For Pfam, PSSMs iteratively constructed from seeds based on HMM consensus sequences perform equivalently to HMMs that were adjusted to have constant gap transition probabilities, albeit with much greater variance. We observed no effect of composition-specific gap costs on retrieval performance. These results suggest possible improvements to the PSI-BLAST protein database search program.
Availability: The scripts for performing evaluations are available upon request from the authors.
PMCID: PMC2718649  PMID: 18586708
9.  PSSM-based prediction of DNA binding sites in proteins 
BMC Bioinformatics  2005;6:33.
Detection of DNA-binding sites in proteins is of enormous interest for technologies targeting gene regulation and manipulation. We have previously shown that a residue and its sequence neighbor information can be used to predict DNA-binding candidates in a protein sequence. This sequence-based prediction method is applicable even if no sequence homology with a previously known DNA-binding protein is observed. Here we implement a neural network based algorithm to utilize evolutionary information of amino acid sequences in terms of their position specific scoring matrices (PSSMs) for a better prediction of DNA-binding sites.
An average of sensitivity and specificity using PSSMs is up to 8.7% better than the prediction with sequence information only. Much smaller data sets could be used to generate PSSM with minimal loss of prediction accuracy.
One problem in using PSSM-derived prediction is obtaining lengthy and time-consuming alignments against large sequence databases. In order to speed up the process of generating PSSMs, we tried to use different reference data sets (sequence space) against which a target protein is scanned for PSI-BLAST iterations. We find that a very small set of proteins can actually be used as such a reference data without losing much of the prediction value. This makes the process of generating PSSMs very rapid and even amenable to be used at a genome level. A web server has been developed to provide these predictions of DNA-binding sites for any new protein from its amino acid sequence.
Online predictions based on this method are available at
PMCID: PMC550660  PMID: 15720719
10.  Compressive genomics for protein databases 
Bioinformatics  2013;29(13):i283-i290.
Motivation: The exponential growth of protein sequence databases has increasingly made the fundamental question of searching for homologs a computational bottleneck. The amount of unique data, however, is not growing nearly as fast; we can exploit this fact to greatly accelerate homology search. Acceleration of programs in the popular PSI/DELTA-BLAST family of tools will not only speed-up homology search directly but also the huge collection of other current programs that primarily interact with large protein databases via precisely these tools.
Results: We introduce a suite of homology search tools, powered by compressively accelerated protein BLAST (CaBLASTP), which are significantly faster than and comparably accurate with all known state-of-the-art tools, including HHblits, DELTA-BLAST and PSI-BLAST. Further, our tools are implemented in a manner that allows direct substitution into existing analysis pipelines. The key idea is that we introduce a local similarity-based compression scheme that allows us to operate directly on the compressed data. Importantly, CaBLASTP’s runtime scales almost linearly in the amount of unique data, as opposed to current BLASTP variants, which scale linearly in the size of the full protein database being searched. Our compressive algorithms will speed-up many tasks, such as protein structure prediction and orthology mapping, which rely heavily on homology search.
Availability: CaBLASTP is available under the GNU Public License at
PMCID: PMC3851851  PMID: 23812995
11.  Tracembler – software for in-silico chromosome walking in unassembled genomes 
BMC Bioinformatics  2007;8:151.
Whole genome shotgun sequencing produces increasingly higher coverage of a genome with random sequence reads. Progressive whole genome assembly and eventual finishing sequencing is a process that typically takes several years for large eukaryotic genomes. In the interim, all sequence reads of public sequencing projects are made available in repositories such as the NCBI Trace Archive. For a particular locus, sequencing coverage may be high enough early on to produce a reliable local genome assembly. We have developed software, Tracembler, that facilitates in silico chromosome walking by recursively assembling reads of a selected species from the NCBI Trace Archive starting with reads that significantly match sequence seeds supplied by the user.
Tracembler takes one or multiple DNA or protein sequence(s) as input to the NCBI Trace Archive BLAST engine to identify matching sequence reads from a species of interest. The BLAST searches are carried out recursively such that BLAST matching sequences identified in previous rounds of searches are used as new queries in subsequent rounds of BLAST searches. The recursive BLAST search stops when either no more new matching sequences are found, a given maximal number of queries is exhausted, or a specified maximum number of rounds of recursion is reached. All the BLAST matching sequences are then assembled into contigs based on significant sequence overlaps using the CAP3 program. We demonstrate the validity of the concept and software implementation with an example of successfully recovering a full-length Chrm2 gene as well as its upstream and downstream genomic regions from Rattus norvegicus reads. In a second example, a query with two adjacent Medicago truncatula genes as seeds resulted in a contig that likely identifies the microsyntenic homologous soybean locus.
Tracembler streamlines the process of recursive database searches, sequence assembly, and gene identification in resulting contigs in attempts to identify homologous loci of genes of interest in species with emerging whole genome shotgun reads. A web server hosting Tracembler is provided at , and the software is also freely available from the authors for local installations.
PMCID: PMC1876249  PMID: 17490482
12.  CDD: a curated Entrez database of conserved domain alignments 
Nucleic Acids Research  2003;31(1):383-387.
The Conserved Domain Database (CDD) is now indexed as a separate database within the Entrez system and linked to other Entrez databases such as MEDLINE®. This allows users to search for domain types by name, for example, or to view the domain architecture of any protein in Entrez's sequence database. CDD can be accessed on the WorldWideWeb at Users may also employ the CD-Search service to identify conserved domains in new sequences, at CD-Search results, and pre-computed links from Entrez's protein database, are calculated using the RPS-BLAST algorithm and Position Specific Score Matrices (PSSMs) derived from CDD alignments. CD-Searches are also run by default for protein–protein queries submitted to BLAST® at
CDD mirrors the publicly available domain alignment collections SMART and PFAM, and now also contains alignment models curated at NCBI. Structure information is used to identify the core substructure likely to be present in all family members, and to produce sequence alignments consistent with structure conservation. This alignment model allows NCBI curators to annotate ‘columns’ corresponding to functional sites conserved among family members.
PMCID: PMC165534  PMID: 12520028
13.  CDD: a database of conserved domain alignments with links to domain three-dimensional structure 
Nucleic Acids Research  2002;30(1):281-283.
The Conserved Domain Database (CDD) is a compilation of multiple sequence alignments representing protein domains conserved in molecular evolution. It has been populated with alignment data from the public collections Pfam and SMART, as well as with contributions from colleagues at NCBI. The current version of CDD (v.1.54) contains 3693 such models. CDD alignments are linked to protein sequence and structure data in Entrez. The molecular structure viewer Cn3D serves as a tool to interactively visualize alignments and three-dimensional structure, and to link three-dimensional residue coordinates to descriptions of evolutionary conservation. CDD can be accessed on the World Wide Web at Protein query sequences may be compared against databases of position-specific score matrices derived from alignments in CDD, using a service named CD-Search, which can be found at CD-Search runs reverse-position-specific BLAST (RPS-BLAST), a variant of the widely used PSI-BLAST algorithm. CD-Search is run by default for protein–protein queries submitted to NCBI’s BLAST service at
PMCID: PMC99109  PMID: 11752315
14.  PHOG-BLAST – a new generation tool for fast similarity search of protein families 
The need to compare protein profiles frequently arises in various protein research areas: comparison of protein families, domain searches, resolution of orthology and paralogy. The existing fast algorithms can only compare a protein sequence with a protein sequence and a profile with a sequence. Algorithms to compare profiles use dynamic programming and complex scoring functions.
We developed a new algorithm called PHOG-BLAST for fast similarity search of profiles. This algorithm uses profile discretization to convert a profile to a finite alphabet and utilizes hashing for fast search. To determine the optimal alphabet, we analyzed columns in reliable multiple alignments and obtained column clusters in the 20-dimensional profile space by applying a special clustering procedure. We show that the clustering procedure works best if its parameters are chosen so that 20 profile clusters are obtained which can be interpreted as ancestral amino acid residues. With these clusters, only less than 2% of columns in multiple alignments are out of clusters. We tested the performance of PHOG-BLAST vs. PSI-BLAST on three well-known databases of multiple alignments: COG, PFAM and BALIBASE. On the COG database both algorithms showed the same performance, on PFAM and BALIBASE PHOG-BLAST was much superior to PSI-BLAST. PHOG-BLAST required 10–20 times less computer memory and computation time than PSI-BLAST.
Since PHOG-BLAST can compare multiple alignments of protein families, it can be used in different areas of comparative proteomics and protein evolution. For example, PHOG-BLAST helped to build the PHOG database of phylogenetic orthologous groups. An essential step in building this database was comparing protein complements of different species and orthologous groups of different taxons on a personal computer in reasonable time. When it is applied to detect weak similarity between protein families, PHOG-BLAST is less precise than rigorous profile-profile comparison method, though it runs much faster and can be used as a hit pre-selecting tool.
PMCID: PMC1522020  PMID: 16792802
15.  GPU-BLAST: using graphics processors to accelerate protein sequence alignment 
Bioinformatics  2010;27(2):182-188.
Motivation: The Basic Local Alignment Search Tool (BLAST) is one of the most widely used bioinformatics tools. The widespread impact of BLAST is reflected in over 53 000 citations that this software has received in the past two decades, and the use of the word ‘blast’ as a verb referring to biological sequence comparison. Any improvement in the execution speed of BLAST would be of great importance in the practice of bioinformatics, and facilitate coping with ever increasing sizes of biomolecular databases.
Results: Using a general-purpose graphics processing unit (GPU), we have developed GPU-BLAST, an accelerated version of the popular NCBI-BLAST. The implementation is based on the source code of NCBI-BLAST, thus maintaining the same input and output interface while producing identical results. In comparison to the sequential NCBI-BLAST, the speedups achieved by GPU-BLAST range mostly between 3 and 4.
Availability: The source code of GPU-BLAST is freely available at
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
PMCID: PMC3018811  PMID: 21088027
16.  Powerful fusion: PSI-BLAST and consensus sequences 
Bioinformatics (Oxford, England)  2008;24(18):1987-1993.
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.
PMCID: PMC2577777  PMID: 18678588
17.  Powerful fusion: PSI-BLAST and consensus sequences 
Bioinformatics  2008;24(18):1987-1993.
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.
PMCID: PMC2577777  PMID: 18678588
18.  Improved Detection of Remote Homologues Using Cascade PSI-BLAST: Influence of Neighbouring Protein Families on Sequence Coverage 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e56449.
Development of sensitive sequence search procedures for the detection of distant relationships between proteins at superfamily/fold level is still a big challenge. The intermediate sequence search approach is the most frequently employed manner of identifying remote homologues effectively. In this study, examination of serine proteases of prolyl oligopeptidase, rhomboid and subtilisin protein families were carried out using plant serine proteases as queries from two genomes including A. thaliana and O. sativa and 13 other families of unrelated folds to identify the distant homologues which could not be obtained using PSI-BLAST.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We have proposed to start with multiple queries of classical serine protease members to identify remote homologues in families, using a rigorous approach like Cascade PSI-BLAST. We found that classical sequence based approaches, like PSI-BLAST, showed very low sequence coverage in identifying plant serine proteases. The algorithm was applied on enriched sequence database of homologous domains and we obtained overall average coverage of 88% at family, 77% at superfamily or fold level along with specificity of ∼100% and Mathew’s correlation coefficient of 0.91. Similar approach was also implemented on 13 other protein families representing every structural class in SCOP database. Further investigation with statistical tests, like jackknifing, helped us to better understand the influence of neighbouring protein families.
Our study suggests that employment of multiple queries of a family for the Cascade PSI-BLAST searches is useful for predicting distant relationships effectively even at superfamily level. We have proposed a generalized strategy to cover all the distant members of a particular family using multiple query sequences. Our findings reveal that prior selection of sequences as query and the presence of neighbouring families can be important for covering the search space effectively in minimal computational time. This study also provides an understanding of the ‘bridging’ role of related families.
PMCID: PMC3577913  PMID: 23437136
19.  SIB-BLAST: a web server for improved delineation of true and false positives in PSI-BLAST searches 
Nucleic Acids Research  2009;37(Web Server issue):W53-W56.
A SIB-BLAST web server ( 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.
PMCID: PMC2703926  PMID: 19429693
20.  Analysis and prediction of cancerlectins using evolutionary and domain information 
BMC Research Notes  2011;4:237.
Predicting the function of a protein is one of the major challenges in the post-genomic era where a large number of protein sequences of unknown function are accumulating rapidly. Lectins are the proteins that specifically recognize and bind to carbohydrate moieties present on either proteins or lipids. Cancerlectins are those lectins that play various important roles in tumor cell differentiation and metastasis. Although the two types of proteins are linked, still there is no computational method available that can distinguish cancerlectins from the large pool of non-cancerlectins. Hence, it is imperative to develop a method that can distinguish between cancer and non-cancerlectins.
All the models developed in this study are based on a non-redundant dataset containing 178 cancerlectins and 226 non-cancerlectins in which no two sequences have more than 50% sequence similarity. We have applied the similarity search based technique, i.e. BLAST, and achieved a maximum accuracy of 43.25%. The amino acids compositional analysis have shown that certain residues (e.g. Leucine, Proline) were preferred in cancerlectins whereas some other (e.g. Asparatic acid, Asparagine) were preferred in non-cancerlectins. It has been found that the PROSITE domain "Crystalline beta gamma" was abundant in cancerlectins whereas domains like "SUEL-type lectin domain" were found mainly in non-cancerlectins. An SVM-based model has been developed to differentiate between the cancer and non-cancerlectins which achieved a maximum Matthew's correlation coefficient (MCC) value of 0.32 with an accuracy of 64.84%, using amino acid compositions. We have developed a model based on dipeptide compositions which achieved an MCC value of 0.30 with an accuracy of 64.84%. Thereafter, we have developed models based on split compositions (2 and 4 parts) and achieved an MCC value of 0.31, 0.32 with accuracies of 65.10% and 66.09%, respectively. An SVM model based on Position Specific Scoring Matrix (PSSM), generated by PSI-BLAST, was developed and achieved an MCC value of 0.36 with an accuracy of 68.34%. Finally, we have integrated the PROSITE domain information with PSSM and developed an SVM model that has achieved an MCC value of 0.38 with 69.09% accuracy.
BLAST has been found inefficient to distinguish between cancer and non-cancerlectins. We analyzed the protein sequences of cancer and non-cancerlectins and identified interesting patterns. We have been able to identify PROSITE domains that are preferred in cancer and non-cancerlectins and thus provided interesting insights into the two types of proteins. The method developed in this study will be useful for researchers studying cancerlectins, lectins and cancer biology. The web-server based on the above study, is available at
PMCID: PMC3161874  PMID: 21774797
21.  MulPSSM: a database of multiple position-specific scoring matrices of protein domain families 
Nucleic Acids Research  2005;34(Database issue):D243-D246.
Representation of multiple sequence alignments of protein families in terms of position-specific scoring matrices (PSSMs) is commonly used in the detection of remote homologues. A PSSM is generated with respect to one of the sequences involved in the multiple sequence alignment as a reference. We have shown recently that the use of multiple PSSMs corresponding to an alignment, with several sequences in the family used as reference, improves the sensitivity of the remote homology detection dramatically. MulPSSM contains PSSMs for a large number of sequence and structural families of protein domains with multiple PSSMs for every family. The approach involves use of a clustering algorithm to identify most distinct sequences corresponding to a family. With each one of the distinct sequences as reference, multiple PSSMs have been generated. The current release of MulPSSM contains ∼33 000 and ∼38 000 PSSMs corresponding to 7868 sequence and 2625 structural families. A RPS_BLAST interface allows sequence search against PSSMs of sequence or structural families or both. An analysis interface allows display and convenient navigation of alignments and domain hits. MulPSSM can be accessed at .
PMCID: PMC1347406  PMID: 16381855
22.  Gapped BLAST and PSI-BLAST: a new generation of protein database search programs. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1997;25(17):3389-3402.
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.
PMCID: PMC146917  PMID: 9254694
23.  Cascade PSI-BLAST web server: a remote homology search tool for relating protein domains 
Nucleic Acids Research  2006;34(Web Server issue):W143-W146.
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 .
PMCID: PMC1538780  PMID: 16844978
24.  Re-searcher: a system for recurrent detection of homologous protein sequences 
BMC Bioinformatics  2008;9:296.
Sequence searches are routinely employed to detect and annotate related proteins. However, a rapid growth of databases necessitates a frequent repetition of sequence searches and subsequent analysis of obtained results. Although there are several automatic systems available for executing periodical sequence searches and reporting results, they all suffer either from a lack of sensitivity, restrictive database choice or limited flexibility in setting up search strategies. Here, a new sequence search and reporting software package designed to address these shortcomings is described.
Re-searcher is an open-source highly configurable system for recurrent detection and reporting of new homologs for the sequence of interest in specified protein sequence databases. Searches are performed using PSI-BLAST at desired time intervals either within NCBI or local databases. In addition to searches against individual databases, the system can perform "PDB-BLAST"-like combined searches, when PSI-BLAST profile generated during search against the first database is used to search the second database. The system supports multiple users enabling each to separately keep track of multiple queries and query-specific results.
Re-searcher features a large number of options enabling automatic periodic detection of both close and distant homologs. At the same time it has a simple and intuitive interface, making the analysis of results even for a large number of queries a straightforward task.
PMCID: PMC2446390  PMID: 18588692
25.  IgBLAST: an immunoglobulin variable domain sequence analysis tool 
Nucleic Acids Research  2013;41(Web Server issue):W34-W40.
The variable domain of an immunoglobulin (IG) sequence is encoded by multiple genes, including the variable (V) gene, the diversity (D) gene and the joining (J) gene. Analysis of IG sequences typically requires identification of each gene, as well as a comparison of sequence variations in the context of defined regions. General purpose tools, such as the BLAST program, have only limited use for such tasks, as the rearranged nature of an IG sequence and the variable length of each gene requires multiple rounds of BLAST searches for a single IG sequence. Additionally, manual assembly of different genes is difficult and error-prone. To address these issues and to facilitate other common tasks in analysing IG sequences, we have developed the sequence analysis tool IgBLAST ( With this tool, users can view the matches to the germline V, D and J genes, details at rearrangement junctions, the delineation of IG V domain framework regions and complementarity determining regions. IgBLAST has the capability to analyse nucleotide and protein sequences and can process sequences in batches. Furthermore, IgBLAST allows searches against the germline gene databases and other sequence databases simultaneously to minimize the chance of missing possibly the best matching germline V gene.
PMCID: PMC3692102  PMID: 23671333

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