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This article is part of the supplement: Selected papers from the Seventh Asia-Pacific Bioinformatics Conference (APBC 2009)

Open Access Open Badges Research

SE: an algorithm for deriving sequence alignment from a pair of superimposed structures

Chin-Hsien Tai1, James J Vincent12, Changhoon Kim1 and Byungkook Lee1*

Author Affiliations

1 Molecular Modeling and Bioinformatics Section, Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA

2 Bioinformatics Core, Vermont Genetics Network, Department of Biology, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT 05405, USA

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BMC Bioinformatics 2009, 10(Suppl 1):S4  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-10-S1-S4

Published: 30 January 2009



Generating sequence alignments from superimposed structures is an important part of many structure comparison programs. The accuracy of the alignment affects structure recognition, classification and possibly function prediction. Many programs use a dynamic programming algorithm to generate the sequence alignment from superimposed structures. However, this procedure requires using a gap penalty and, depending on the value of the penalty used, can introduce spurious gaps and misalignments. Here we present a new algorithm, Seed Extension (SE), for generating the sequence alignment from a pair of superimposed structures. The SE algorithm first finds "seeds", which are the pairs of residues, one from each structure, that meet certain stringent criteria for being structurally equivalent. Three consecutive seeds form a seed segment, which is extended along the diagonal of the alignment matrix in both directions. Distance and the amino acid type similarity between the residues are used to resolve conflicts that arise during extension of more than one diagonal. The manually curated alignments in the Conserved Domain Database were used as the standard to assess the quality of the sequence alignments.


SE gave an average accuracy of 95.9% over 582 pairs of superimposed proteins tested, while CHIMERA, LSQMAN, and DP extracted from SHEBA, which all use a dynamic programming algorithm, yielded 89.9%, 90.2% and 91.0%, respectively. For pairs of proteins with low sequence or structural similarity, SE produced alignments up to 18% more accurate on average than the next best scoring program. Improvement was most pronounced when the two superimposed structures contained equivalent helices or beta-strands that crossed at an angle. When the SE algorithm was implemented in SHEBA to replace the dynamic programming routine, the alignment accuracy improved by 10% on average for structure pairs with RMSD between 2 and 4 Å. SE also used considerably less CPU time than DP.


The Seed Extension algorithm is fast and, without using a gap penalty, produces more accurate sequence alignments from superimposed structures than three other programs tested that use dynamic programming algorithm.