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1.  Capturing cooperative interactions with the PSI-MI format 
The complex biological processes that control cellular function are mediated by intricate networks of molecular interactions. Accumulating evidence indicates that these interactions are often interdependent, thus acting cooperatively. Cooperative interactions are prevalent in and indispensible for reliable and robust control of cell regulation, as they underlie the conditional decision-making capability of large regulatory complexes. Despite an increased focus on experimental elucidation of the molecular details of cooperative binding events, as evidenced by their growing occurrence in literature, they are currently lacking from the main bioinformatics resources. One of the contributing factors to this deficiency is the lack of a computer-readable standard representation and exchange format for cooperative interaction data. To tackle this shortcoming, we added functionality to the widely used PSI-MI interchange format for molecular interaction data by defining new controlled vocabulary terms that allow annotation of different aspects of cooperativity without making structural changes to the underlying XML schema. As a result, we are able to capture cooperative interaction data in a structured format that is backward compatible with PSI-MI–based data and applications. This will facilitate the storage, exchange and analysis of cooperative interaction data, which in turn will advance experimental research on this fundamental principle in biology.
Database URL: http://psi-mi-cooperativeinteractions.embl.de/
doi:10.1093/database/bat066
PMCID: PMC3782717  PMID: 24067240
2.  SLiMPrints: conservation-based discovery of functional motif fingerprints in intrinsically disordered protein regions 
Nucleic Acids Research  2012;40(21):10628-10641.
Large portions of higher eukaryotic proteomes are intrinsically disordered, and abundant evidence suggests that these unstructured regions of proteins are rich in regulatory interaction interfaces. A major class of disordered interaction interfaces are the compact and degenerate modules known as short linear motifs (SLiMs). As a result of the difficulties associated with the experimental identification and validation of SLiMs, our understanding of these modules is limited, advocating the use of computational methods to focus experimental discovery. This article evaluates the use of evolutionary conservation as a discriminatory technique for motif discovery. A statistical framework is introduced to assess the significance of relatively conserved residues, quantifying the likelihood a residue will have a particular level of conservation given the conservation of the surrounding residues. The framework is expanded to assess the significance of groupings of conserved residues, a metric that forms the basis of SLiMPrints (short linear motif fingerprints), a de novo motif discovery tool. SLiMPrints identifies relatively overconstrained proximal groupings of residues within intrinsically disordered regions, indicative of putatively functional motifs. Finally, the human proteome is analysed to create a set of highly conserved putative motif instances, including a novel site on translation initiation factor eIF2A that may regulate translation through binding of eIF4E.
doi:10.1093/nar/gks854
PMCID: PMC3510515  PMID: 22977176
3.  iELM—a web server to explore short linear motif-mediated interactions 
Nucleic Acids Research  2012;40(Web Server issue):W364-W369.
The recent expansion in our knowledge of protein–protein interactions (PPIs) has allowed the annotation and prediction of hundreds of thousands of interactions. However, the function of many of these interactions remains elusive. The interactions of Eukaryotic Linear Motif (iELM) web server provides a resource for predicting the function and positional interface for a subset of interactions mediated by short linear motifs (SLiMs). The iELM prediction algorithm is based on the annotated SLiM classes from the Eukaryotic Linear Motif (ELM) resource and allows users to explore both annotated and user-generated PPI networks for SLiM-mediated interactions. By incorporating the annotated information from the ELM resource, iELM provides functional details of PPIs. This can be used in proteomic analysis, for example, to infer whether an interaction promotes complex formation or degradation. Furthermore, details of the molecular interface of the SLiM-mediated interactions are also predicted. This information is displayed in a fully searchable table, as well as graphically with the modular architecture of the participating proteins extracted from the UniProt and Phospho.ELM resources. A network figure is also presented to aid the interpretation of results. The iELM server supports single protein queries as well as large-scale proteomic submissions and is freely available at http://i.elm.eu.org.
doi:10.1093/nar/gks444
PMCID: PMC3394315  PMID: 22638578
4.  Linear motifs confer functional diversity onto splice variants 
Nucleic Acids Research  2012;40(15):7123-7131.
The pre-translational modification of messenger ribonucleic acids (mRNAs) by alternative promoter usage and alternative splicing is an important source of pleiotropy. Despite intensive efforts, our understanding of the functional implications of this dynamically created diversity is still incomplete. Using the available knowledge of interaction modules, particularly within intrinsically disordered regions (IDRs), we analysed the occurrences of protein modules within alternative exons. We find that regions removed or included by pre-translational variation are enriched in linear motifs suggesting that the removal or inclusion of exons containing these interaction modules is an important regulatory mechanism. In particular, we observe that PDZ-, PTB-, SH2- and WW-domain binding motifs are more likely to occur within alternative exons. We also determine that regions removed or included by alternative promoter usage are enriched in IDRs suggesting that protein isoform diversity is tightly coupled to the modulation of IDRs. This study, therefore, demonstrates that short linear motifs are key components for establishing protein diversity between splice variants.
doi:10.1093/nar/gks442
PMCID: PMC3424572  PMID: 22638587
5.  Fast, scalable generation of high-quality protein multiple sequence alignments using Clustal Omega 
Fast, scalable generation of high-quality protein multiple sequence alignments using Clustal Omega
Multiple sequence alignments are fundamental to many sequence analysis methods. The new program Clustal Omega can align virtually any number of protein sequences quickly and has powerful features for adding sequences to existing precomputed alignments.
Multiple sequence alignments are fundamental to many sequence analysis methods. Most alignments are computed using the progressive alignment heuristic. These methods are starting to become a bottleneck in some analysis pipelines when faced with data sets of the size of many thousands of sequences. Some methods allow computation of larger data sets while sacrificing quality, and others produce high-quality alignments, but scale badly with the number of sequences. In this paper, we describe a new program called Clustal Omega, which can align virtually any number of protein sequences quickly and that delivers accurate alignments. The accuracy of the package on smaller test cases is similar to that of the high-quality aligners. On larger data sets, Clustal Omega outperforms other packages in terms of execution time and quality. Clustal Omega also has powerful features for adding sequences to and exploiting information in existing alignments, making use of the vast amount of precomputed information in public databases like Pfam.
doi:10.1038/msb.2011.75
PMCID: PMC3261699  PMID: 21988835
bioinformatics; hidden Markov models; multiple sequence alignment
6.  Transcription of Alu DNA elements in blood cells of sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (sCJD) 
Prion  2010;4(2):87-93.
Alu DNA elements were long considered to be of no biological significance and thus have been only poorly defined. However, in the past Alu DNA elements with well-defined nucleotide sequences have been suspected to contribute to disease, but the role of Alu DNA element transcripts has rarely been investigated. For the first time, we determined in a real-time approach Alu DNA element transcription in buffy coat cells isolated from the blood of humans suffering from sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (sCJD) and other neurodegenerative disorders. The reverse transcribed Alu transcripts were amplified and their cDNA sequences were aligned to genomic regions best fitted to database genomic Alu DNA element sequences deposited in the UCSC and NCBI data bases. Our cloned Alu RNA/cDNA sequences were widely distributed in the human genome and preferably belonged to the “young” Alu Y family. We also observed that some RNA/cDNA clones could be aligned to several chromosomes because of the same degree of identity and score to resident genomic Alu DNA elements. These elements, called paralogues, have purportedly been recently generated by retrotransposition. Along with cases of sCJD we also included cases of dementia and Alzheimer disease (AD). Each group revealed a divergent pattern of transcribed Alu elements. Chromosome 2 was the most preferred site in sCJD cases, besides chromosome 17; in AD cases chromosome 11 was overrepresented whereas chromosomes 2, 3 and 17 were preferred active Alu loci in controls. Chromosomes 2, 12 and 17 gave rise to Alu transcripts in dementia cases. The detection of putative Alu paralogues widely differed depending on the disease. A detailed data search revealed that some cloned Alu transcripts originated from RNA polymerase III transcription since the genomic sites of their Alu elements were found between genes. Other Alu DNA elements could be located close to or within coding regions of genes. In general, our observations suggest that identification and genomic localization of active Alu DNA elements could be further developed as a surrogate marker for differential gene expression in disease. A sufficient number of cases are necessary for statistical significance before Alu DNA elements can be considered useful to differentiate neurodegenerative diseases from controls.
PMCID: PMC2933056  PMID: 20424511
transcription of Alu DNA elements; chromosomal patterns of active Alu DNA elements; sporadic CJD; differential gene expression in neurodegeneration
7.  Phospho.ELM: a database of phosphorylation sites—update 2011 
Nucleic Acids Research  2010;39(Database issue):D261-D267.
The Phospho.ELM resource (http://phospho.elm.eu.org) is a relational database designed to store in vivo and in vitro phosphorylation data extracted from the scientific literature and phosphoproteomic analyses. The resource has been actively developed for more than 7 years and currently comprises 42 574 serine, threonine and tyrosine non-redundant phosphorylation sites. Several new features have been implemented, such as structural disorder/order and accessibility information and a conservation score. Additionally, the conservation of the phosphosites can now be visualized directly on the multiple sequence alignment used for the score calculation. Finally, special emphasis has been put on linking to external resources such as interaction networks and other databases.
doi:10.1093/nar/gkq1104
PMCID: PMC3013696  PMID: 21062810
8.  Ancient Protostome Origin of Chemosensory Ionotropic Glutamate Receptors and the Evolution of Insect Taste and Olfaction 
PLoS Genetics  2010;6(8):e1001064.
Ionotropic glutamate receptors (iGluRs) are a highly conserved family of ligand-gated ion channels present in animals, plants, and bacteria, which are best characterized for their roles in synaptic communication in vertebrate nervous systems. A variant subfamily of iGluRs, the Ionotropic Receptors (IRs), was recently identified as a new class of olfactory receptors in the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, hinting at a broader function of this ion channel family in detection of environmental, as well as intercellular, chemical signals. Here, we investigate the origin and evolution of IRs by comprehensive evolutionary genomics and in situ expression analysis. In marked contrast to the insect-specific Odorant Receptor family, we show that IRs are expressed in olfactory organs across Protostomia—a major branch of the animal kingdom that encompasses arthropods, nematodes, and molluscs—indicating that they represent an ancestral protostome chemosensory receptor family. Two subfamilies of IRs are distinguished: conserved “antennal IRs,” which likely define the first olfactory receptor family of insects, and species-specific “divergent IRs,” which are expressed in peripheral and internal gustatory neurons, implicating this family in taste and food assessment. Comparative analysis of drosophilid IRs reveals the selective forces that have shaped the repertoires in flies with distinct chemosensory preferences. Examination of IR gene structure and genomic distribution suggests both non-allelic homologous recombination and retroposition contributed to the expansion of this multigene family. Together, these findings lay a foundation for functional analysis of these receptors in both neurobiological and evolutionary studies. Furthermore, this work identifies novel targets for manipulating chemosensory-driven behaviours of agricultural pests and disease vectors.
Author Summary
Ionotropic glutamate receptors (iGluRs) are a family of cell surface proteins best known for their role in allowing neurons to communicate with each other in the brain. We recently discovered a variant class of iGluRs in the fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster), named Ionotropic Receptors (IRs), which function as olfactory receptors in its “nose,” prompting us to ask whether iGluR/IRs might have a more general function in detection of environmental chemicals. Here, we have identified families of IRs in olfactory and taste sensory organs throughout protostomes, one of the principal branches of animal life that includes snails, worms, crustaceans, and insects. Our findings suggest that this receptor family has an evolutionary ancient function in detecting odors and tastants in the external world. By comparing the repertoires of these chemosensory IRs among both closely- and distantly-related species, we have observed dynamic patterns of expansion and divergence of these receptor families in organisms occupying very different ecological niches. Notably, many of the receptors we have identified are in insects that are of significant harm to human health, such as the malaria mosquito. These proteins represent attractive targets for novel types of insect repellents to control the host-seeking behaviors of such pest species.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1001064
PMCID: PMC2924276  PMID: 20808886
9.  Phosphorylation of S776 and 14-3-3 Binding Modulate Ataxin-1 Interaction with Splicing Factors 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(12):e8372.
Ataxin-1 (Atx1), a member of the polyglutamine (polyQ) expanded protein family, is responsible for spinocerebellar ataxia type 1. Requirements for developing the disease are polyQ expansion, nuclear localization and phosphorylation of S776. Using a combination of bioinformatics, cell and structural biology approaches, we have identified a UHM ligand motif (ULM), present in proteins associated with splicing, in the C-terminus of Atx1 and shown that Atx1 interacts with and influences the function of the splicing factor U2AF65 via this motif. ULM comprises S776 of Atx1 and overlaps with a nuclear localization signal and a 14-3-3 binding motif. We demonstrate that phosphorylation of S776 provides the molecular switch which discriminates between 14-3-3 and components of the spliceosome. We also show that an S776D Atx1 mutant previously designed to mimic phosphorylation is unsuitable for this aim because of the different chemical properties of the two groups. Our results indicate that Atx1 is part of a complex network of interactions with splicing factors and suggest that development of the pathology is the consequence of a competition of aggregation with native interactions. Studies of the interactions formed by non-expanded Atx1 thus provide valuable hints for understanding both the function of the non-pathologic protein and the causes of the disease.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0008372
PMCID: PMC2791216  PMID: 20037628
10.  A structure filter for the Eukaryotic Linear Motif Resource 
BMC Bioinformatics  2009;10:351.
Background
Many proteins are highly modular, being assembled from globular domains and segments of natively disordered polypeptides. Linear motifs, short sequence modules functioning independently of protein tertiary structure, are most abundant in natively disordered polypeptides but are also found in accessible parts of globular domains, such as exposed loops. The prediction of novel occurrences of known linear motifs attempts the difficult task of distinguishing functional matches from stochastically occurring non-functional matches. Although functionality can only be confirmed experimentally, confidence in a putative motif is increased if a motif exhibits attributes associated with functional instances such as occurrence in the correct taxonomic range, cellular compartment, conservation in homologues and accessibility to interacting partners. Several tools now use these attributes to classify putative motifs based on confidence of functionality.
Results
Current methods assessing motif accessibility do not consider much of the information available, either predicting accessibility from primary sequence or regarding any motif occurring in a globular region as low confidence. We present a method considering accessibility and secondary structural context derived from experimentally solved protein structures to rectify this situation. Putatively functional motif occurrences are mapped onto a representative domain, given that a high quality reference SCOP domain structure is available for the protein itself or a close relative. Candidate motifs can then be scored for solvent-accessibility and secondary structure context. The scores are calibrated on a benchmark set of experimentally verified motif instances compared with a set of random matches. A combined score yields 3-fold enrichment for functional motifs assigned to high confidence classifications and 2.5-fold enrichment for random motifs assigned to low confidence classifications. The structure filter is implemented as a pipeline with both a graphical interface via the ELM resource and through a Web Service protocol.
Conclusion
New occurrences of known linear motifs require experimental validation as the bioinformatics tools currently have limited reliability. The ELM structure filter will aid users assessing candidate motifs presenting in globular structural regions. Most importantly, it will help users to decide whether to expend their valuable time and resources on experimental testing of interesting motif candidates.
doi:10.1186/1471-2105-10-351
PMCID: PMC2774702  PMID: 19852836
11.  Evidence for the Concerted Evolution between Short Linear Protein Motifs and Their Flanking Regions 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(7):e6052.
Background
Linear motifs are short modules of protein sequences that play a crucial role in mediating and regulating many protein–protein interactions. The function of linear motifs strongly depends on the context, e.g. functional instances mainly occur inside flexible regions that are accessible for interaction. Sometimes linear motifs appear as isolated islands of conservation in multiple sequence alignments. However, they also occur in larger blocks of sequence conservation, suggesting an active role for the neighbouring amino acids.
Results
The evolution of regions flanking 116 functional linear motif instances was studied. The conservation of the amino acid sequence and order/disorder tendency of those regions was related to presence/absence of the instance. For the majority of the analysed instances, the pairs of sequences conserving the linear motif were also observed to maintain a similar local structural tendency and/or to have higher local sequence conservation when compared to pairs of sequences where one is missing the linear motif. Furthermore, those instances have a higher chance to co–evolve with the neighbouring residues in comparison to the distant ones. Those findings are supported by examples where the regulation of the linear motif–mediated interaction has been shown to depend on the modifications (e.g. phosphorylation) at neighbouring positions or is thought to benefit from the binding versatility of disordered regions.
Conclusion
The results suggest that flanking regions are relevant for linear motif–mediated interactions, both at the structural and sequence level. More interestingly, they indicate that the prediction of linear motif instances can be enriched with contextual information by performing a sequence analysis similar to the one presented here. This can facilitate the understanding of the role of these predicted instances in determining the protein function inside the broader context of the cellular network where they arise.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0006052
PMCID: PMC2702822  PMID: 19584925
12.  KEPE—a motif frequently superimposed on sumoylation sites in metazoan chromatin proteins and transcription factors 
Bioinformatics  2008;25(1):1-5.
Motivation: We noted that the sumoylation site in C/EBP homologues is conserved beyond the canonical consensus sequence for sumoylation. Therefore, we investigated whether this pattern might define a more general protein motif.
Results: We undertook a survey of the human proteome using a regular expression based on the C/EBP motif. This revealed significant enrichment of the motif using different Gene Ontology terms (e.g. ‘transcription’) that pertain to the nucleus. When considering requirements for the motif to be functional (evolutionary conservation, structural accessibility of the motif and proper cell localization of the protein), more than 130 human proteins were retrieved from the UniProt/Swiss-Prot database. These candidates were particularly enriched in transcription factors, including FOS, JUN, Hif-1α, MLL2 and members of the KLF, MAF and NFATC families; chromatin modifiers like CHD-8, HDAC4 and DNA Top1; and the transcriptional regulatory kinases HIPK1 and HIPK2. The KEPEmotif appears to be restricted to the metazoan lineage and has three length variants—short, medium and long—which do not appear to interchange.
Contact: toby.gibson@embl.de
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
doi:10.1093/bioinformatics/btn594
PMCID: PMC2638927  PMID: 19033273
13.  Malectin: A Novel Carbohydrate-binding Protein of the Endoplasmic Reticulum and a Candidate Player in the Early Steps of Protein N-Glycosylation 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2008;19(8):3404-3414.
N-Glycosylation starts in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) where a 14-sugar glycan composed of three glucoses, nine mannoses, and two N-acetylglucosamines (Glc3Man9GlcNAc2) is transferred to nascent proteins. The glucoses are sequentially trimmed by ER-resident glucosidases. The Glc3Man9GlcNAc2 moiety is the substrate for oligosaccharyltransferase; the Glc1Man9GlcNAc2 and Man9GlcNAc2 intermediates are signals for glycoprotein folding and quality control in the calnexin/calreticulin cycle. Here, we report a novel membrane-anchored ER protein that is highly conserved in animals and that recognizes the Glc2-N-glycan. Structure determination by nuclear magnetic resonance showed that its luminal part is a carbohydrate binding domain that recognizes glucose oligomers. Carbohydrate microarray analyses revealed a uniquely selective binding to a Glc2-N-glycan probe. The localization, structure, and binding specificity of this protein, which we have named malectin, open the way to studies of its role in the genesis, processing and secretion of N-glycosylated proteins.
doi:10.1091/mbc.E08-04-0354
PMCID: PMC2488313  PMID: 18524852
14.  A tree-based conservation scoring method for short linear motifs in multiple alignments of protein sequences 
BMC Bioinformatics  2008;9:229.
Background
The structure of many eukaryotic cell regulatory proteins is highly modular. They are assembled from globular domains, segments of natively disordered polypeptides and short linear motifs. The latter are involved in protein interactions and formation of regulatory complexes. The function of such proteins, which may be difficult to define, is the aggregate of the subfunctions of the modules. It is therefore desirable to efficiently predict linear motifs with some degree of accuracy, yet sequence database searches return results that are not significant.
Results
We have developed a method for scoring the conservation of linear motif instances. It requires only primary sequence-derived information (e.g. multiple alignment and sequence tree) and takes into account the degenerate nature of linear motif patterns. On our benchmarking, the method accurately scores 86% of the known positive instances, while distinguishing them from random matches in 78% of the cases. The conservation score is implemented as a real time application designed to be integrated into other tools. It is currently accessible via a Web Service or through a graphical interface.
Conclusion
The conservation score improves the prediction of linear motifs, by discarding those matches that are unlikely to be functional because they have not been conserved during the evolution of the protein sequences. It is especially useful for instances in non-structured regions of the proteins, where a domain masking filtering strategy is not applicable.
doi:10.1186/1471-2105-9-229
PMCID: PMC2396637  PMID: 18460207
15.  A new protein linear motif benchmark for multiple sequence alignment software 
BMC Bioinformatics  2008;9:213.
Background
Linear motifs (LMs) are abundant short regulatory sites used for modulating the functions of many eukaryotic proteins. They play important roles in post-translational modification, cell compartment targeting, docking sites for regulatory complex assembly and protein processing and cleavage. Methods for LM detection are now being developed that are strongly dependent on scores for motif conservation in homologous proteins. However, most LMs are found in natively disordered polypeptide segments that evolve rapidly, unhindered by structural constraints on the sequence. These regions of modular proteins are difficult to align using classical multiple sequence alignment programs that are specifically optimised to align the globular domains. As a consequence, poor motif alignment quality is hindering efforts to detect new LMs.
Results
We have developed a new benchmark, as part of the BAliBASE suite, designed to assess the ability of standard multiple alignment methods to detect and align LMs. The reference alignments are organised into different test sets representing real alignment problems and contain examples of experimentally verified functional motifs, extracted from the Eukaryotic Linear Motif (ELM) database. The benchmark has been used to evaluate and compare a number of multiple alignment programs. With distantly related proteins, the worst alignment program correctly aligns 48% of LMs compared to 73% for the best program. However, the performance of all the programs is adversely affected by the introduction of other sequences containing false positive motifs. The ranking of the alignment programs based on LM alignment quality is similar to that observed when considering full-length protein alignments, however little correlation was observed between LM and overall alignment quality for individual alignment test cases.
Conclusion
We have shown that none of the programs currently available is capable of reliably aligning LMs in distantly related sequences and we have highlighted a number of specific problems. The results of the tests suggest possible ways to improve program accuracy for difficult, divergent sequences.
doi:10.1186/1471-2105-9-213
PMCID: PMC2374782  PMID: 18439277
16.  Phospho.ELM: a database of phosphorylation sites—update 2008 
Nucleic Acids Research  2007;36(Database issue):D240-D244.
Phospho.ELM is a manually curated database of eukaryotic phosphorylation sites. The resource includes data collected from published literature as well as high-throughput data sets.
The current release of Phospho.ELM (version 7.0, July 2007) contains 4078 phospho-protein sequences covering 12 025 phospho-serine, 2362 phospho-threonine and 2083 phospho-tyrosine sites. The entries provide information about the phosphorylated proteins and the exact position of known phosphorylated instances, the kinases responsible for the modification (where known) and links to bibliographic references. The database entries have hyperlinks to easily access further information from UniProt, PubMed, SMART, ELM, MSD as well as links to the protein interaction databases MINT and STRING.
A new BLAST search tool, complementary to retrieval by keyword and UniProt accession number, allows users to submit a protein query (by sequence or UniProt accession) to search against the curated data set of phosphorylated peptides.
Phospho.ELM is available on line at: http://phospho.elm.eu.org
doi:10.1093/nar/gkm772
PMCID: PMC2238828  PMID: 17962309
17.  Bacterial α2-macroglobulins: colonization factors acquired by horizontal gene transfer from the metazoan genome? 
Genome Biology  2004;5(6):R38.
Homologs of metazoan α2-macroglobulins have been found in bacteria. The distribution of these genes in diverse bacterial clades suggests they have been acquired by multiple horizontal transfers.
Background
Invasive bacteria are known to have captured and adapted eukaryotic host genes. They also readily acquire colonizing genes from other bacteria by horizontal gene transfer. Closely related species such as Helicobacter pylori and Helicobacter hepaticus, which exploit different host tissues, share almost none of their colonization genes. The protease inhibitor α2-macroglobulin provides a major metazoan defense against invasive bacteria, trapping attacking proteases required by parasites for successful invasion.
Results
Database searches with metazoan α2-macroglobulin sequences revealed homologous sequences in bacterial proteomes. The bacterial α2-macroglobulin phylogenetic distribution is patchy and violates the vertical descent model. Bacterial α2-macroglobulin genes are found in diverse clades, including purple bacteria (proteobacteria), fusobacteria, spirochetes, bacteroidetes, deinococcids, cyanobacteria, planctomycetes and thermotogae. Most bacterial species with bacterial α2-macroglobulin genes exploit higher eukaryotes (multicellular plants and animals) as hosts. Both pathogenically invasive and saprophytically colonizing species possess bacterial α2-macroglobulins, indicating that bacterial α2-macroglobulin is a colonization rather than a virulence factor.
Conclusions
Metazoan α2-macroglobulins inhibit proteases of pathogens. The bacterial homologs may function in reverse to block host antimicrobial defenses. α2-macroglobulin was probably acquired one or more times from metazoan hosts and has then spread widely through other colonizing bacterial species by more than 10 independent horizontal gene transfers. yfhM-like bacterial α2-macroglobulin genes are often found tightly linked with pbpC, encoding an atypical peptidoglycan transglycosylase, PBP1C, that does not function in vegetative peptidoglycan synthesis. We suggest that YfhM and PBP1C are coupled together as a periplasmic defense and repair system. Bacterial α2-macroglobulins might provide useful targets for enhancing vaccine efficacy in combating infections.
doi:10.1186/gb-2004-5-6-r38
PMCID: PMC463071  PMID: 15186489
18.  BLAST2SRS, a web server for flexible retrieval of related protein sequences in the SWISS-PROT and SPTrEMBL databases 
Nucleic Acids Research  2003;31(13):3792-3794.
SRS (Sequence Retrieval System) is a widely used keyword search engine for querying biological databases. BLAST2 is the most widely used tool to query databases by sequence similarity search. These tools allow users to retrieve sequences by shared keyword or by shared similarity, with many public web servers available. However, with the increasingly large datasets available it is now quite common that a user is interested in some subset of homologous sequences but has no efficient way to restrict retrieval to that set. By allowing the user to control SRS from the BLAST output, BLAST2SRS (http://blast2srs.embl.de/) aims to meet this need. This server therefore combines the two ways to search sequence databases: similarity and keyword.
PMCID: PMC168942  PMID: 12824420
19.  Multiple sequence alignment with the Clustal series of programs 
Nucleic Acids Research  2003;31(13):3497-3500.
The Clustal series of programs are widely used in molecular biology for the multiple alignment of both nucleic acid and protein sequences and for preparing phylogenetic trees. The popularity of the programs depends on a number of factors, including not only the accuracy of the results, but also the robustness, portability and user-friendliness of the programs. New features include NEXUS and FASTA format output, printing range numbers and faster tree calculation. Although, Clustal was originally developed to run on a local computer, numerous Web servers have been set up, notably at the EBI (European Bioinformatics Institute) (http://www.ebi.ac.uk/clustalw/).
PMCID: PMC168907  PMID: 12824352
20.  GlobPlot: exploring protein sequences for globularity and disorder 
Nucleic Acids Research  2003;31(13):3701-3708.
A major challenge in the proteomics and structural genomics era is to predict protein structure and function, including identification of those proteins that are partially or wholly unstructured. Non-globular sequence segments often contain short linear peptide motifs (e.g. SH3-binding sites) which are important for protein function. We present here a new tool for discovery of such unstructured, or disordered regions within proteins. GlobPlot (http://globplot.embl.de) is a web service that allows the user to plot the tendency within the query protein for order/globularity and disorder. We show examples with known proteins where it successfully identifies inter-domain segments containing linear motifs, and also apparently ordered regions that do not contain any recognised domain. GlobPlot may be useful in domain hunting efforts. The plots indicate that instances of known domains may often contain additional N- or C-terminal segments that appear ordered. Thus GlobPlot may be of use in the design of constructs corresponding to globular proteins, as needed for many biochemical studies, particularly structural biology. GlobPlot has a pipeline interface—GlobPipe—for the advanced user to do whole proteome analysis. GlobPlot can also be used as a generic infrastructure package for graphical displaying of any possible propensity.
PMCID: PMC169197  PMID: 12824398
21.  Gene2EST: a BLAST2 server for searching expressed sequence tag (EST) databases with eukaryotic gene-sized queries 
Nucleic Acids Research  2001;29(6):1272-1277.
Expressed sequence tags (ESTs) are randomly sequenced cDNA clones. Currently, nearly 3 million human and 2 million mouse ESTs provide valuable resources that enable researchers to investigate the products of gene expression. The EST databases have proven to be useful tools for detecting homologous genes, for exon mapping, revealing differential splicing, etc. With the increasing availability of large amounts of poorly characterised eukaryotic (notably human) genomic sequence, ESTs have now become a vital tool for gene identification, sometimes yielding the only unambiguous evidence for the existence of a gene expression product. However, BLAST-based Web servers available to the general user have not kept pace with these developments and do not provide appropriate tools for querying EST databases with large highly spliced genes, often spanning 50 000–100 000 bases or more. Here we describe Gene2EST (http://woody.embl-heidelberg.de/gene2est/), a server that brings together a set of tools enabling efficient retrieval of ESTs matching large DNA queries and their subsequent analysis. RepeatMasker is used to mask dispersed repetitive sequences (such as Alu elements) in the query, BLAST2 for searching EST databases and Artemis for graphical display of the findings. Gene2EST combines these components into a Web resource targeted at the researcher who wishes to study one or a few genes to a high level of detail.
PMCID: PMC29756  PMID: 11238992
22.  Systematic Discovery of New Recognition Peptides Mediating Protein Interaction Networks 
PLoS Biology  2005;3(12):e405.
Many aspects of cell signalling, trafficking, and targeting are governed by interactions between globular protein domains and short peptide segments. These domains often bind multiple peptides that share a common sequence pattern, or “linear motif” (e.g., SH3 binding to PxxP). Many domains are known, though comparatively few linear motifs have been discovered. Their short length (three to eight residues), and the fact that they often reside in disordered regions in proteins makes them difficult to detect through sequence comparison or experiment. Nevertheless, each new motif provides critical molecular details of how interaction networks are constructed, and can explain how one protein is able to bind to very different partners. Here we show that binding motifs can be detected using data from genome-scale interaction studies, and thus avoid the normally slow discovery process. Our approach based on motif over-representation in non-homologous sequences, rediscovers known motifs and predicts dozens of others. Direct binding experiments reveal that two predicted motifs are indeed protein-binding modules: a DxxDxxxD protein phosphatase 1 binding motif with a KD of 22 μM and a VxxxRxYS motif that binds Translin with a KD of 43 μM. We estimate that there are dozens or even hundreds of linear motifs yet to be discovered that will give molecular insight into protein networks and greatly illuminate cellular processes.
Many protein interactions are mediated by short amino acid motifs. The authors describe a new approach to identify these interaction motifs and experimentally validate some of their binding predictions.
doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0030405
PMCID: PMC1283537  PMID: 16279839
23.  The eukaryotic linear motif resource ELM: 10 years and counting 
Nucleic Acids Research  2013;42(D1):D259-D266.
The eukaryotic linear motif (ELM http://elm.eu.org) resource is a hub for collecting, classifying and curating information about short linear motifs (SLiMs). For >10 years, this resource has provided the scientific community with a freely accessible guide to the biology and function of linear motifs. The current version of ELM contains ∼200 different motif classes with over 2400 experimentally validated instances manually curated from >2000 scientific publications. Furthermore, detailed information about motif-mediated interactions has been annotated and made available in standard exchange formats. Where appropriate, links are provided to resources such as switches.elm.eu.org and KEGG pathways.
doi:10.1093/nar/gkt1047
PMCID: PMC3964949  PMID: 24214962
24.  ELM—the database of eukaryotic linear motifs 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;40(D1):D242-D251.
Linear motifs are short, evolutionarily plastic components of regulatory proteins and provide low-affinity interaction interfaces. These compact modules play central roles in mediating every aspect of the regulatory functionality of the cell. They are particularly prominent in mediating cell signaling, controlling protein turnover and directing protein localization. Given their importance, our understanding of motifs is surprisingly limited, largely as a result of the difficulty of discovery, both experimentally and computationally. The Eukaryotic Linear Motif (ELM) resource at http://elm.eu.org provides the biological community with a comprehensive database of known experimentally validated motifs, and an exploratory tool to discover putative linear motifs in user-submitted protein sequences. The current update of the ELM database comprises 1800 annotated motif instances representing 170 distinct functional classes, including approximately 500 novel instances and 24 novel classes. Several older motif class entries have been also revisited, improving annotation and adding novel instances. Furthermore, addition of full-text search capabilities, an enhanced interface and simplified batch download has improved the overall accessibility of the ELM data. The motif discovery portion of the ELM resource has added conservation, and structural attributes have been incorporated to aid users to discriminate biologically relevant motifs from stochastically occurring non-functional instances.
doi:10.1093/nar/gkr1064
PMCID: PMC3245074  PMID: 22110040
25.  ELM: the status of the 2010 eukaryotic linear motif resource 
Nucleic Acids Research  2009;38(Database issue):D167-D180.
Linear motifs are short segments of multidomain proteins that provide regulatory functions independently of protein tertiary structure. Much of intracellular signalling passes through protein modifications at linear motifs. Many thousands of linear motif instances, most notably phosphorylation sites, have now been reported. Although clearly very abundant, linear motifs are difficult to predict de novo in protein sequences due to the difficulty of obtaining robust statistical assessments. The ELM resource at http://elm.eu.org/ provides an expanding knowledge base, currently covering 146 known motifs, with annotation that includes >1300 experimentally reported instances. ELM is also an exploratory tool for suggesting new candidates of known linear motifs in proteins of interest. Information about protein domains, protein structure and native disorder, cellular and taxonomic contexts is used to reduce or deprecate false positive matches. Results are graphically displayed in a ‘Bar Code’ format, which also displays known instances from homologous proteins through a novel ‘Instance Mapper’ protocol based on PHI-BLAST. ELM server output provides links to the ELM annotation as well as to a number of remote resources. Using the links, researchers can explore the motifs, proteins, complex structures and associated literature to evaluate whether candidate motifs might be worth experimental investigation.
doi:10.1093/nar/gkp1016
PMCID: PMC2808914  PMID: 19920119

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