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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Improvement of domain-level ortholog clustering by optimizing domain-specific sum-of-pairs score

Hirokazu Chiba and Ikuo Uchiyama*

Author Affiliations

National Institute for Basic Biology, National Institutes of Natural Sciences, Nishigonaka 38, Myodaiji, Okazaki 444-8585, Japan

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BMC Bioinformatics 2014, 15:148  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-15-148

Published: 18 May 2014



Identification of ortholog groups is a crucial step in comparative analysis of multiple genomes. Although several computational methods have been developed to create ortholog groups, most of those methods do not evaluate orthology at the sub-gene level. In our method for domain-level ortholog clustering, DomClust, proteins are split into domains on the basis of alignment boundaries identified by all-against-all pairwise comparison, but it often fails to determine appropriate boundaries.


We developed a method to improve domain-level ortholog classification using multiple alignment information. This method is based on a scoring scheme, the domain-specific sum-of-pairs (DSP) score, which evaluates ortholog clustering results at the domain level as the sum total of domain-level alignment scores. We developed a refinement pipeline to improve domain-level clustering, DomRefine, by optimizing the DSP score. We applied DomRefine to domain-level ortholog groups created by DomClust using a dataset obtained from the Microbial Genome Database for Comparative Analysis (MBGD), and evaluated the results using COG clusters and TIGRFAMs models as the reference data. Thus, we observed that the agreement between the resulting classification and the classifications in the reference databases is improved at almost every step in the refinement pipeline. Moreover, the refined classification showed better agreement than the classifications in the eggNOG databases when TIGRFAMs was used as the reference database.


DomRefine is a useful tool for improving the quality of domain-level ortholog classification among microbial genomes. Combining with a rapid domain-level ortholog clustering method, such as DomClust, it can be used to create a high-quality ortholog database that can serve as a solid basis for various comparative genome analyses.

Ortholog group; Domain; Multiple alignment; Sum-of-pairs score