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This article is part of the supplement: Selected proceedings from the Automated Function Prediction Meeting 2011

Open Access Proceedings

Protein function prediction by massive integration of evolutionary analyses and multiple data sources

Domenico Cozzetto, Daniel WA Buchan, Kevin Bryson and David T Jones*

Author Affiliations

Bioinformatics Group, Department of Computer Science, University College London, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT, UK

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BMC Bioinformatics 2013, 14(Suppl 3):S1  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-14-S3-S1

Published: 28 February 2013



Accurate protein function annotation is a severe bottleneck when utilizing the deluge of high-throughput, next generation sequencing data. Keeping database annotations up-to-date has become a major scientific challenge that requires the development of reliable automatic predictors of protein function. The CAFA experiment provided a unique opportunity to undertake comprehensive 'blind testing' of many diverse approaches for automated function prediction. We report on the methodology we used for this challenge and on the lessons we learnt.


Our method integrates into a single framework a wide variety of biological information sources, encompassing sequence, gene expression and protein-protein interaction data, as well as annotations in UniProt entries. The methodology transfers functional categories based on the results from complementary homology-based and feature-based analyses. We generated the final molecular function and biological process assignments by combining the initial predictions in a probabilistic manner, which takes into account the Gene Ontology hierarchical structure.


We propose a novel scoring function called COmbined Graph-Information Content similarity (COGIC) score for the comparison of predicted functional categories and benchmark data. We demonstrate that our integrative approach provides increased scope and accuracy over both the component methods and the naïve predictors. In line with previous studies, we find that molecular function predictions are more accurate than biological process assignments.


Overall, the results indicate that there is considerable room for improvement in the field. It still remains for the community to invest a great deal of effort to make automated function prediction a useful and routine component in the toolbox of life scientists. As already witnessed in other areas, community-wide blind testing experiments will be pivotal in establishing standards for the evaluation of prediction accuracy, in fostering advancements and new ideas, and ultimately in recording progress.