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

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Three-Level Prediction of Protein Function by Combining Profile-Sequence Search, Profile-Profile Search, and Domain Co-Occurrence Networks

Zheng Wang1, Renzhi Cao1 and Jianlin Cheng123*

Author affiliations

1 Department of Computer Science, University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri 65211, USA

2 Institute of Informatics, University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri 65211, USA

3 Christopher S. Bond Life Science Center, University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri 65211, USA

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Citation and License

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

Published: 28 February 2013


Predicting protein function from sequence is useful for biochemical experiment design, mutagenesis analysis, protein engineering, protein design, biological pathway analysis, drug design, disease diagnosis, and genome annotation as a vast number of protein sequences with unknown function are routinely being generated by DNA, RNA and protein sequencing in the genomic era. However, despite significant progresses in the last several years, the accuracy of protein function prediction still needs to be improved in order to be used effectively in practice, particularly when little or no homology exists between a target protein and proteins with annotated function. Here, we developed a method that integrated profile-sequence alignment, profile-profile alignment, and Domain Co-Occurrence Networks (DCN) to predict protein function at different levels of complexity, ranging from obvious homology, to remote homology, to no homology. We tested the method blindingly in the 2011 Critical Assessment of Function Annotation (CAFA). Our experiments demonstrated that our three-level prediction method effectively increased the recall of function prediction while maintaining a reasonable precision. Particularly, our method can predict function terms defined by the Gene Ontology more accurately than three standard baseline methods in most situations, handle multi-domain proteins naturally, and make ab initio function prediction when no homology exists. These results show that our approach can combine complementary strengths of most widely used BLAST-based function prediction methods, rarely used in function prediction but more sensitive profile-profile comparison-based homology detection methods, and non-homology-based domain co-occurrence networks, to effectively extend the power of function prediction from high homology, to low homology, to no homology (ab initio cases).