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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 (www.ebi.ac.uk/Tools/sss/psisearch) and SOAP and REST Web Services (www.ebi.ac.uk/Tools/webservices).
Contact: pearson@virginia.edu; rodrigo.lopez@ebi.ac.uk
doi:10.1093/bioinformatics/bts240
PMCID: PMC3371869  PMID: 22539666
2.  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
3.  PSI-BLAST pseudocounts and the minimum description length principle 
Nucleic Acids Research  2008;37(3):815-824.
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.
doi:10.1093/nar/gkn981
PMCID: PMC2647318  PMID: 19088134
4.  FastBLAST: Homology Relationships for Millions of Proteins 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(10):e3589.
Background
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.
Conclusions/Significance
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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0003589
PMCID: PMC2571987  PMID: 18974889
5.  Homologous over-extension: a challenge for iterative similarity searches 
Nucleic Acids Research  2010;38(7):2177-2189.
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.
doi:10.1093/nar/gkp1219
PMCID: PMC2853128  PMID: 20064877
6.  Scanning sequences after Gibbs sampling to find multiple occurrences of functional elements 
BMC Bioinformatics  2006;7:408.
Background
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.
Results
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.
Conclusion
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.
doi:10.1186/1471-2105-7-408
PMCID: PMC1599759  PMID: 16961919
7.  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 http://cablastp.csail.mit.edu/
Contact: bab@mit.edu
doi:10.1093/bioinformatics/btt214
PMCID: PMC3851851  PMID: 23812995
8.  Improving the accuracy of PSI-BLAST protein database searches with composition-based statistics and other refinements 
Nucleic Acids Research  2001;29(14):2994-3005.
PSI-BLAST is an iterative program to search a database for proteins with distant similarity to a query sequence. We investigated over a dozen modifications to the methods used in PSI-BLAST, with the goal of improving accuracy in finding true positive matches. To evaluate performance we used a set of 103 queries for which the true positives in yeast had been annotated by human experts, and a popular measure of retrieval accuracy (ROC) that can be normalized to take on values between 0 (worst) and 1 (best). The modifications we consider novel improve the ROC score from 0.758 ± 0.005 to 0.895 ± 0.003. This does not include the benefits from four modifications we included in the ‘baseline’ version, even though they were not implemented in PSI-BLAST version 2.0. The improvement in accuracy was confirmed on a small second test set. This test involved analyzing three protein families with curated lists of true positives from the non-redundant protein database. The modification that accounts for the majority of the improvement is the use, for each database sequence, of a position-specific scoring system tuned to that sequence’s amino acid composition. The use of composition-based statistics is particularly beneficial for large-scale automated applications of PSI-BLAST.
PMCID: PMC55814  PMID: 11452024
9.  Fast index based algorithms and software for matching position specific scoring matrices 
BMC Bioinformatics  2006;7:389.
Background
In biological sequence analysis, position specific scoring matrices (PSSMs) are widely used to represent sequence motifs in nucleotide as well as amino acid sequences. Searching with PSSMs in complete genomes or large sequence databases is a common, but computationally expensive task.
Results
We present a new non-heuristic algorithm, called ESAsearch, to efficiently find matches of PSSMs in large databases. Our approach preprocesses the search space, e.g., a complete genome or a set of protein sequences, and builds an enhanced suffix array that is stored on file. This allows the searching of a database with a PSSM in sublinear expected time. Since ESAsearch benefits from small alphabets, we present a variant operating on sequences recoded according to a reduced alphabet. We also address the problem of non-comparable PSSM-scores by developing a method which allows the efficient computation of a matrix similarity threshold for a PSSM, given an E-value or a p-value. Our method is based on dynamic programming and, in contrast to other methods, it employs lazy evaluation of the dynamic programming matrix. We evaluated algorithm ESAsearch with nucleotide PSSMs and with amino acid PSSMs. Compared to the best previous methods, ESAsearch shows speedups of a factor between 17 and 275 for nucleotide PSSMs, and speedups up to factor 1.8 for amino acid PSSMs. Comparisons with the most widely used programs even show speedups by a factor of at least 3.8. Alphabet reduction yields an additional speedup factor of 2 on amino acid sequences compared to results achieved with the 20 symbol standard alphabet. The lazy evaluation method is also much faster than previous methods, with speedups of a factor between 3 and 330.
Conclusion
Our analysis of ESAsearch reveals sublinear runtime in the expected case, and linear runtime in the worst case for sequences not shorter than |A MathType@MTEF@5@5@+=feaafiart1ev1aaatCvAUfKttLearuWrP9MDH5MBPbIqV92AaeXatLxBI9gBamrtHrhAL1wy0L2yHvtyaeHbnfgDOvwBHrxAJfwnaebbnrfifHhDYfgasaacH8akY=wiFfYdH8Gipec8Eeeu0xXdbba9frFj0=OqFfea0dXdd9vqai=hGuQ8kuc9pgc9s8qqaq=dirpe0xb9q8qiLsFr0=vr0=vr0dc8meaabaqaciaacaGaaeqabaWaaeGaeaaakeaaimaacqWFaeFqaaa@3821@|m + m - 1, where m is the length of the PSSM and A MathType@MTEF@5@5@+=feaafiart1ev1aaatCvAUfKttLearuWrP9MDH5MBPbIqV92AaeXatLxBI9gBamrtHrhAL1wy0L2yHvtyaeHbnfgDOvwBHrxAJfwnaebbnrfifHhDYfgasaacH8akY=wiFfYdH8Gipec8Eeeu0xXdbba9frFj0=OqFfea0dXdd9vqai=hGuQ8kuc9pgc9s8qqaq=dirpe0xb9q8qiLsFr0=vr0=vr0dc8meaabaqaciaacaGaaeqabaWaaeGaeaaakeaaimaacqWFaeFqaaa@3821@ a finite alphabet. In practice, ESAsearch shows superior performance over the most widely used programs, especially for DNA sequences. The new algorithm for accurate on-the-fly calculations of thresholds has the potential to replace formerly used approximation approaches. Beyond the algorithmic contributions, we provide a robust, well documented, and easy to use software package, implementing the ideas and algorithms presented in this manuscript.
doi:10.1186/1471-2105-7-389
PMCID: PMC1635428  PMID: 16930469
10.  Allergen Atlas: a comprehensive knowledge center and analysis resource for allergen information 
Bioinformatics  2009;25(7):979-980.
Summary: A variety of specialist databases have been developed to facilitate the study of allergens. However, these databases either contain different subsets of allergen data or are deficient in tools for assessing potential allergenicity of proteins. Here, we describe Allergen Atlas, a comprehensive repository of experimentally validated allergen sequences collected from in-house laboratory, online data submission, literature reports and all existing general-purpose and specialist databases. Each entry was manually verified, classified and hyperlinked to major databases including Swiss-Prot, Protein Data Bank (PDB), Gene Ontology (GO), Pfam and PubMed. The database is integrated with analysis tools that include: (i) keyword search, (ii) BLAST, (iii) position-specific iterative BLAST (PSI-BLAST), (iv) FAO/WHO criteria search, (v) graphical representation of allergen information network and (vi) online data submission. The latest version contains information of 1593 allergen sequences (496 IUIS allergens, 978 experimentally verified allergens and 119 new sequences), 56 IgE epitope sequences, 679 links to PDB structures and 155 links to Pfam domains.
Availability: Allergen Atlas is freely available at http://tiger.dbs.nus.edu.sg/ATLAS/.
Contact: martti@nus.edu.sg.
doi:10.1093/bioinformatics/btp077
PMCID: PMC2660874  PMID: 19213741
11.  SCANPS: a web server for iterative protein sequence database searching by dynamic programing, with display in a hierarchical SCOP browser 
Nucleic Acids Research  2008;36(Web Server issue):W25-W29.
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.
doi:10.1093/nar/gkn320
PMCID: PMC2447745  PMID: 18503088
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 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?db=cdd. Users may also employ the CD-Search service to identify conserved domains in new sequences, at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/Structure/cdd/wrpsb.cgi. 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 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/BLAST.
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.  VirulentPred: a SVM based prediction method for virulent proteins in bacterial pathogens 
BMC Bioinformatics  2008;9:62.
Background
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.
Results
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.
Conclusion
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/.
doi:10.1186/1471-2105-9-62
PMCID: PMC2254373  PMID: 18226234
14.  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 (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.
doi:10.1093/nar/gkp301
PMCID: PMC2703926  PMID: 19429693
15.  BindN+ for accurate prediction of DNA and RNA-binding residues from protein sequence features 
BMC Systems Biology  2010;4(Suppl 1):S3.
Background
Understanding how biomolecules interact is a major task of systems biology. To model protein-nucleic acid interactions, it is important to identify the DNA or RNA-binding residues in proteins. Protein sequence features, including the biochemical property of amino acids and evolutionary information in terms of position-specific scoring matrix (PSSM), have been used for DNA or RNA-binding site prediction. However, PSSM is rather designed for PSI-BLAST searches, and it may not contain all the evolutionary information for modelling DNA or RNA-binding sites in protein sequences.
Results
In the present study, several new descriptors of evolutionary information have been developed and evaluated for sequence-based prediction of DNA and RNA-binding residues using support vector machines (SVMs). The new descriptors were shown to improve classifier performance. Interestingly, the best classifiers were obtained by combining the new descriptors and PSSM, suggesting that they captured different aspects of evolutionary information for DNA and RNA-binding site prediction. The SVM classifiers achieved 77.3% sensitivity and 79.3% specificity for prediction of DNA-binding residues, and 71.6% sensitivity and 78.7% specificity for RNA-binding site prediction.
Conclusions
Predictions at this level of accuracy may provide useful information for modelling protein-nucleic acid interactions in systems biology studies. We have thus developed a web-based tool called BindN+ (http://bioinfo.ggc.org/bindn+/) to make the SVM classifiers accessible to the research community.
doi:10.1186/1752-0509-4-S1-S3
PMCID: PMC2880409  PMID: 20522253
16.  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: ftp://ftp.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pub/agarwala/indexed_megablast
Contact: schaffer@helix.nih.gov
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
doi:10.1093/bioinformatics/btn322
PMCID: PMC2696921  PMID: 18567917
17.  Including Biological Literature Improves Homology Search 
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.
PMCID: PMC2671075  PMID: 11262956
18.  Protein sequence similarity searches using patterns as seeds. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1998;26(17):3986-3990.
Protein families often are characterized by conserved sequence patterns or motifs. A researcher frequently wishes to evaluate the significance of a specific pattern within a protein, or to exploit knowledge of known motifs to aid the recognition of greatly diverged but homologous family members. To assist in these efforts, the pattern-hit initiated BLAST (PHI-BLAST) program described here takes as input both a protein sequence and a pattern of interest that it contains. PHI-BLAST searches a protein database for other instances of the input pattern, and uses those found as seeds for the construction of local alignments to the query sequence. The random distribution of PHI-BLAST alignment scores is studied analytically and empirically. In many instances, the program is able to detect statistically significant similarity between homologous proteins that are not recognizably related using traditional single-pass database search methods. PHI-BLAST is applied to the analysis of CED4-like cell death regulators, HS90-type ATPase domains, archaeal tRNA nucleotidyltransferases and archaeal homologs of DnaG-type DNA primases.
PMCID: PMC147803  PMID: 9705509
19.  BLAST-EXPLORER helps you building datasets for phylogenetic analysis 
Background
The right sampling of homologous sequences for phylogenetic or molecular evolution analyses is a crucial step, the quality of which can have a significant impact on the final interpretation of the study. There is no single way for constructing datasets suitable for phylogenetic analysis, because this task intimately depends on the scientific question we want to address, Moreover, database mining softwares such as BLAST which are routinely used for searching homologous sequences are not specifically optimized for this task.
Results
To fill this gap, we designed BLAST-Explorer, an original and friendly web-based application that combines a BLAST search with a suite of tools that allows interactive, phylogenetic-oriented exploration of the BLAST results and flexible selection of homologous sequences among the BLAST hits. Once the selection of the BLAST hits is done using BLAST-Explorer, the corresponding sequence can be imported locally for external analysis or passed to the phylogenetic tree reconstruction pipelines available on the Phylogeny.fr platform.
Conclusions
BLAST-Explorer provides a simple, intuitive and interactive graphical representation of the BLAST results and allows selection and retrieving of the BLAST hit sequences based a wide range of criterions. Although BLAST-Explorer primarily aims at helping the construction of sequence datasets for further phylogenetic study, it can also be used as a standard BLAST server with enriched output. BLAST-Explorer is available at http://www.phylogeny.fr
doi:10.1186/1471-2148-10-8
PMCID: PMC2821324  PMID: 20067610
20.  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.
Availability: http://www.rostlab.org/services/consensus/
Contact: dariusz@mit.edu
doi:10.1093/bioinformatics/btn384
PMCID: PMC2577777  PMID: 18678588
21.  Powerful fusion: PSI-BLAST and consensus sequences 
Bioinformatics (Oxford, England)  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 widely popular and effective method could be used to identify significantly more relevant similarities among protein sequences.
Availability
http://www.rostlab.org/services/consensus/
Contact:
dsp23@columbia.edu
doi:10.1093/bioinformatics/btn384
PMCID: PMC2577777  PMID: 18678588
22.  Superior performance in protein homology detection with the Blocks Database servers. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1998;26(1):309-312.
The Blocks Database World Wide Web (http://www.blocks.fhcrc.org ) and Email (blocks@blocks.fhcrc.org) servers provide tools for the detection and analysis of protein homology based on alignment blocks representing conserved regions of proteins. During the past year, searching has been augmented by supplementation of the Blocks Database with blocks from the Prints Database, for a total of 4754 blocks from 1163 families. Blocks from both the Blocks and Prints Databases and blocks that are constructed from sequences submitted to Block Maker can be used for blocks-versus-blocks searching of these databases with LAMA, and for viewing logos and bootstrap trees. Sensitive searches of up-to-date protein sequence databanks are carried out via direct links to the MAST server using position-specific scoring matrices and to the BLAST and PSI-BLAST servers using consensus-embedded sequence queries. Utilizing the trypsin family to evaluate performance, we illustrate the superiority of blocks-based tools over expert pairwise searching or Hidden Markov Models.
PMCID: PMC147168  PMID: 9399861
23.  PFMFind: a system for discovery of peptide homology and function 
Protein Fragment Motif Finder (PFMFind) is a system that enables e cient discovery of relationships between short fragments of protein sequences using similarity search. It supports queries based on amino acid similarity matrices and position specific score matrices (PSSMs) obtained through an iterative procedure. PSSM construction is customisable through plugins written in Python. PFMFind consists of a GUI client, an index for fast similarity search and a relational database for storing search results and sequence annotations. It is written mostly in Python. The components of PFMFind communicate through TCP/IP sockets and can be located on different physical machines. PFMFind is freely available for download (under a GPL licence) from http://pfmfind.stojmirovic.org
doi:10.1007/978-3-642-41062-8_32
PMCID: PMC3903583  PMID: 24479118
similarity search; indexing; protein fragments
24.  Recent Hits Acquired by BLAST (ReHAB): A tool to identify new hits in sequence similarity searches 
BMC Bioinformatics  2005;6:23.
Background
Sequence similarity searching is a powerful tool to help develop hypotheses in the quest to assign functional, structural and evolutionary information to DNA and protein sequences. As sequence databases continue to grow exponentially, it becomes increasingly important to repeat searches at frequent intervals, and similarity searches retrieve larger and larger sets of results. New and potentially significant results may be buried in a long list of previously obtained sequence hits from past searches.
Results
ReHAB (Recent Hits Acquired from BLAST) is a tool for finding new protein hits in repeated PSI-BLAST searches. ReHAB compares results from PSI-BLAST searches performed with two versions of a protein sequence database and highlights hits that are present only in the updated database. Results are presented in an easily comprehended table, or in a BLAST-like report, using colors to highlight the new hits. ReHAB is designed to handle large numbers of query sequences, such as whole genomes or sets of genomes. Advanced computer skills are not needed to use ReHAB; the graphics interface is simple to use and was designed with the bench biologist in mind.
Conclusions
This software greatly simplifies the problem of evaluating the output of large numbers of protein database searches.
doi:10.1186/1471-2105-6-23
PMCID: PMC549547  PMID: 15701178
25.  Phylogenomics of Prokaryotic Ribosomal Proteins 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e36972.
Archaeal and bacterial ribosomes contain more than 50 proteins, including 34 that are universally conserved in the three domains of cellular life (bacteria, archaea, and eukaryotes). Despite the high sequence conservation, annotation of ribosomal (r-) protein genes is often difficult because of their short lengths and biased sequence composition. We developed an automated computational pipeline for identification of r-protein genes and applied it to 995 completely sequenced bacterial and 87 archaeal genomes available in the RefSeq database. The pipeline employs curated seed alignments of r-proteins to run position-specific scoring matrix (PSSM)-based BLAST searches against six-frame genome translations, mitigating possible gene annotation errors. As a result of this analysis, we performed a census of prokaryotic r-protein complements, enumerated missing and paralogous r-proteins, and analyzed the distributions of ribosomal protein genes among chromosomal partitions. Phyletic patterns of bacterial and archaeal r-protein genes were mapped to phylogenetic trees reconstructed from concatenated alignments of r-proteins to reveal the history of likely multiple independent gains and losses. These alignments, available for download, can be used as search profiles to improve genome annotation of r-proteins and for further comparative genomics studies.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0036972
PMCID: PMC3353972  PMID: 22615861

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