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1.  Alignment of protein structures in the presence of domain motions 
BMC Bioinformatics  2008;9:352.
Structural alignment is an important step in protein comparison. Well-established methods exist for solving this problem under the assumption that the structures under comparison are considered as rigid bodies. However, proteins are flexible entities often undergoing movements that alter the positions of domains or subdomains with respect to each other. Such movements can impede the identification of structural equivalences when rigid aligners are used.
We introduce a new method called RAPIDO (Rapid Alignment of Proteins in terms of Domains) for the three-dimensional alignment of protein structures in the presence of conformational changes. The flexible aligner is coupled to a genetic algorithm for the identification of structurally conserved regions. RAPIDO is capable of aligning protein structures in the presence of large conformational changes. Structurally conserved regions are reliably detected even if they are discontinuous in sequence but continuous in space and can be used for superpositions revealing subtle differences.
RAPIDO is more sensitive than other flexible aligners when applied to cases of closely homologues proteins undergoing large conformational changes. When applied to a set of kinase structures it is able to detect similarities that are missed by other alignment algorithms. The algorithm is sufficiently fast to be applied to the comparison of large sets of protein structures.
PMCID: PMC2535786  PMID: 18727838
2.  ELM server: a new resource for investigating short functional sites in modular eukaryotic proteins 
Nucleic Acids Research  2003;31(13):3625-3630.
Multidomain proteins predominate in eukaryotic proteomes. Individual functions assigned to different sequence segments combine to create a complex function for the whole protein. While on-line resources are available for revealing globular domains in sequences, there has hitherto been no comprehensive collection of small functional sites/motifs comparable to the globular domain resources, yet these are as important for the function of multidomain proteins. Short linear peptide motifs are used for cell compartment targeting, protein–protein interaction, regulation by phosphorylation, acetylation, glycosylation and a host of other post-translational modifications. ELM, the Eukaryotic Linear Motif server at, is a new bioinformatics resource for investigating candidate short non-globular functional motifs in eukaryotic proteins, aiming to fill the void in bioinformatics tools. Sequence comparisons with short motifs are difficult to evaluate because the usual significance assessments are inappropriate. Therefore the server is implemented with several logical filters to eliminate false positives. Current filters are for cell compartment, globular domain clash and taxonomic range. In favourable cases, the filters can reduce the number of retained matches by an order of magnitude or more.
PMCID: PMC168952  PMID: 12824381
3.  iSPOT: a web tool to infer the interaction specificity of families of protein modules 
Nucleic Acids Research  2003;31(13):3709-3711.
iSPOT ( is a web tool developed to infer the recognition specificity of protein module families; it is based on the SPOT procedure that utilizes information from position-specific contacts, derived from the available domain/ligand complexes of known structure, and experimental interaction data to build a database of residue–residue contact frequencies. iSPOT is available to infer the interaction specificity of PDZ, SH3 and WW domains. For each family of protein domains, iSPOT evaluates the probability of interaction between a query domain of the specified families and an input protein/peptide sequence and makes it possible to search for potential binding partners of a given domain within the SWISS-PROT database. The experimentally derived interaction data utilized to build the PDZ, SH3 and WW databases of residue–residue contact frequencies are also accessible. Here we describe the application to the WW family of protein modules.
PMCID: PMC168998  PMID: 12824399
4.  Development of Computational Tools for the Inference of Protein Interaction Specificity Rules and Functional Annotation Using Structural Information 
Relatively few protein structures are known, compared to the enormous amount of sequence data produced in the sequencing of different genomes, and relatively few protein complexes are deposited in the PDB with respect to the great amount of interaction data coming from high-throughput experiments (two-hybrid or affinity purification of protein complexes and mass spectrometry). Nevertheless, we can rely on computational techniques for the extraction of high-quality and information-rich data from the known structures and for their spreading in the protein sequence space. We describe here the ongoing research projects in our group: we analyse the protein complexes stored in the PDB and, for each complex involving one domain belonging to a family of interaction domains for which some interaction data are available, we can calculate its probability of interaction with any protein sequence. We analyse the structures of proteins encoding a function specified in a PROSITE pattern, which exhibits relatively low selectivity and specificity, and build extended patterns. To this aim, we consider residues that are well-conserved in the structure, even if their conservation cannot easily be recognized in the sequence alignment of the proteins holding the function. We also analyse protein surface regions and, through the annotation of the solvent-exposed residues, we annotate protein surface patches via a structural comparison performed with stringent parameters and independently of the residue order in the sequence. Local surface comparison may also help in identifying new sequence patterns, which could not be highlighted with other sequence-based methods.
PMCID: PMC2447366  PMID: 18629081
5.  iSPOT: A Web Tool for the Analysis and Recognition of Protein Domain Specificity 
Methods that aim at predicting interaction partners are very likely to play an important role in the interpretation of genomic information. iSPOT (iSpecificity Prediction Of Target) is a web tool (accessible at developed for the prediction of protein-protein interaction mediated by families of peptide recognition modules. iSPOT accesses a database of position specific residue-residue interaction frequencies for members of the SH3 and PDZ protein domain families. The software utilises this database to provide a score for any potential domain peptide interaction.
iSPOT: 1. evaluates the likelihood of the interaction between any of the peptides contained in an input protein and a list of domains of the two different families; 2. searches in the SWISS-PROT database for potential partners of a query domain; and 3. has access to a repository of all the domain/target peptide interaction data.
PMCID: PMC2448410  PMID: 18629248

Results 1-5 (5)