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Open Access Research article

On the detection of functionally coherent groups of protein domains with an extension to protein annotation

William A McLaughlin, Ken Chen, Tingjun Hou and Wei Wang*

Author Affiliations

Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Center for Theoretical Biological Physics, University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive La Jolla, CA 92093-0359, USA

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BMC Bioinformatics 2007, 8:390  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-8-390

Published: 16 October 2007

Abstract

Background

Protein domains coordinate to perform multifaceted cellular functions, and domain combinations serve as the functional building blocks of the cell. The available methods to identify functional domain combinations are limited in their scope, e.g. to the identification of combinations falling within individual proteins or within specific regions in a translated genome. Further effort is needed to identify groups of domains that span across two or more proteins and are linked by a cooperative function. Such functional domain combinations can be useful for protein annotation.

Results

Using a new computational method, we have identified 114 groups of domains, referred to as domain assembly units (DASSEM units), in the proteome of budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The units participate in many important cellular processes such as transcription regulation, translation initiation, and mRNA splicing. Within the units the domains were found to function in a cooperative manner; and each domain contributed to a different aspect of the unit's overall function. The member domains of DASSEM units were found to be significantly enriched among proteins contained in transcription modules, defined as genes sharing similar expression profiles and presumably similar functions. The observation further confirmed the functional coherence of DASSEM units. The functional linkages of units were found in both functionally characterized and uncharacterized proteins, which enabled the assessment of protein function based on domain composition.

Conclusion

A new computational method was developed to identify groups of domains that are linked by a common function in the proteome of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. These groups can either lie within individual proteins or span across different proteins. We propose that the functional linkages among the domains within the DASSEM units can be used as a non-homology based tool to annotate uncharacterized proteins.