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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 annotation with Structurally Aligned Local Sites of Activity (SALSAs)

Zhouxi Wang1, Pengcheng Yin1, Joslynn S Lee1, Ramya Parasuram1, Srinivas Somarowthu12 and Mary Jo Ondrechen1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Northeastern University, Boston, MA 02115 USA

2 Current address: Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, 219 Prospect Street, Kline Biology Tower Room 826, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520-8103 USA

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BMC Bioinformatics 2013, 14(Suppl 3):S13  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-14-S3-S13

Published: 28 February 2013



The prediction of biochemical function from the 3D structure of a protein has proved to be much more difficult than was originally foreseen. A reliable method to test the likelihood of putative annotations and to predict function from structure would add tremendous value to structural genomics data. We report on a new method, Structurally Aligned Local Sites of Activity (SALSA), for the prediction of biochemical function based on a local structural match at the predicted catalytic or binding site.


Implementation of the SALSA method is described. For the structural genomics protein PY01515 (PDB ID 2aqw) from Plasmodium yoelii, it is shown that the putative annotation, Orotidine 5'-monophosphate decarboxylase (OMPDC), is most likely correct. SALSA analysis of YP_001304206.1 (PDB ID 3h3l), a putative sugar hydrolase from Parabacteroides distasonis, shows that its active site does not bear close resemblance to any previously characterized member of its superfamily, the Concanavalin A-like lectins/glucanases. It is noted that three residues in the active site of the thermophilic beta-1,4-xylanase from Nonomuraea flexuosa (PDB ID 1m4w), Y78, E87, and E176, overlap with POOL-predicted residues of similar type, Y168, D153, and E232, in YP_001304206.1. The substrate recognition regions of the two proteins are rather different, suggesting that YP_001304206.1 is a new functional type within the superfamily. A structural genomics protein from Mycobacterium avium (PDB ID 3q1t) has been reported to be an enoyl-CoA hydratase (ECH), but SALSA analysis shows a poor match between the predicted residues for the SG protein and those of known ECHs. A better local structural match is obtained with Anabaena beta-diketone hydrolase (ABDH), a known β-diketone hydrolase from Cyanobacterium anabaena (PDB ID 2j5s). This suggests that the reported ECH function of the SG protein is incorrect and that it is more likely a β-diketone hydrolase.


A local site match provides a more compelling function prediction than that obtainable from a simple 3D structure match. The present method can confirm putative annotations, identify misannotation, and in some cases suggest a more probable annotation.