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Open Access Research article

Selective prediction of interaction sites in protein structures with THEMATICS

Ying Wei1, Jaeju Ko12, Leonel F Murga13 and Mary Jo Ondrechen1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology and Institute for Complex Scientific Software, Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts 02115 USA

2 NSF-ROA awardee. Department of Chemistry, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, 975 Oakland Avenue, Indiana, Pennsylvania 15705 USA

3 Rosenstiel Basic Medical Sciences Center, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA 02454 USA

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BMC Bioinformatics 2007, 8:119  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-8-119

Published: 9 April 2007



Methods are now available for the prediction of interaction sites in protein 3D structures. While many of these methods report high success rates for site prediction, often these predictions are not very selective and have low precision. Precision in site prediction is addressed using Theoretical Microscopic Titration Curves (THEMATICS), a simple computational method for the identification of active sites in enzymes. Recall and precision are measured and compared with other methods for the prediction of catalytic sites.


Using a test set of 169 enzymes from the original Catalytic Residue Dataset (CatRes) it is shown that THEMATICS can deliver precise, localised site predictions. Furthermore, adjustment of the cut-off criteria can improve the recall rates for catalytic residues with only a small sacrifice in precision. Recall rates for CatRes/CSA annotated catalytic residues are 41.1%, 50.4%, and 54.2% for Z score cut-off values of 1.00, 0.99, and 0.98, respectively. The corresponding precision rates are 19.4%, 17.9%, and 16.4%. The success rate for catalytic sites is higher, with correct or partially correct predictions for 77.5%, 85.8%, and 88.2% of the enzymes in the test set, corresponding to the same respective Z score cut-offs, if only the CatRes annotations are used as the reference set. Incorporation of additional literature annotations into the reference set gives total success rates of 89.9%, 92.9%, and 94.1%, again for corresponding cut-off values of 1.00, 0.99, and 0.98. False positive rates for a 75-protein test set are 1.95%, 2.60%, and 3.12% for Z score cut-offs of 1.00, 0.99, and 0.98, respectively.


With a preferred cut-off value of 0.99, THEMATICS achieves a high success rate of interaction site prediction, about 86% correct or partially correct using CatRes/CSA annotations only and about 93% with an expanded reference set. Success rates for catalytic residue prediction are similar to those of other structure-based methods, but with substantially better precision and lower false positive rates. THEMATICS performs well across the spectrum of E.C. classes. The method requires only the structure of the query protein as input. THEMATICS predictions may be obtained via the web from structures in PDB format at: webcite