HEAT and ARM repeats occur in a large number of eukaryotic proteins. As these repeats are often highly diverged, the prediction of HEAT or ARM domains can be challenging. Except for the most clear-cut cases, identification at the individual repeat level is indispensable, in particular for determining domain boundaries. However, methods using single sequence queries do not have the sensitivity required to deal with more divergent repeats and, when applied to proteins with known structures, in some cases failed to detect a single repeat.
Methodology and Principal Findings
Testing algorithms which use multiple sequence alignments as queries, we found two of them, HHpred and COACH, to detect HEAT and ARM repeats with greatly enhanced sensitivity. Calibration against experimentally determined structures suggests the use of three score classes with increasing confidence in the prediction, and prediction thresholds for each method. When we applied a new protocol using both HHpred and COACH to these structures, it detected 82% of HEAT repeats and 90% of ARM repeats, with the minimum for a given protein of 57% for HEAT repeats and 60% for ARM repeats. Application to bona fide HEAT and ARM proteins or domains indicated that similar numbers can be expected for the full complement of HEAT/ARM proteins. A systematic screen of the Protein Data Bank for false positive hits revealed their number to be low, in particular for ARM repeats. Double false positive hits for a given protein were rare for HEAT and not at all observed for ARM repeats. In combination with fold prediction and consistency checking (multiple sequence alignments, secondary structure prediction, and position analysis), repeat prediction with the new HHpred/COACH protocol dramatically improves prediction in the twilight zone of fold prediction methods, as well as the delineation of HEAT/ARM domain boundaries.
A protocol is presented for the identification of individual HEAT or ARM repeats which is straightforward to implement. It provides high sensitivity at a low false positive rate and will therefore greatly enhance the accuracy of predictions of HEAT and ARM domains.