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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Functional region prediction with a set of appropriate homologous sequences-an index for sequence selection by integrating structure and sequence information with spatial statistics

Wataru Nemoto12* and Hiroyuki Toh1

Author Affiliations

1 Computational Biology Research Center (CBRC), Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), AIST Tokyo Waterfront Bio-IT Research Building. 2-4-7 Aomi, Koto-ku, Tokyo 135-0064, Japan

2 Division of Life Science and Engineering, School of Science and Engineering, Tokyo Denki University (TDU), Ishizaka, Hatoyama-cho, Hiki-gun, Saitama, 350-0394, Japan

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BMC Structural Biology 2012, 12:11  doi:10.1186/1472-6807-12-11

Published: 29 May 2012



The detection of conserved residue clusters on a protein structure is one of the effective strategies for the prediction of functional protein regions. Various methods, such as Evolutionary Trace, have been developed based on this strategy. In such approaches, the conserved residues are identified through comparisons of homologous amino acid sequences. Therefore, the selection of homologous sequences is a critical step. It is empirically known that a certain degree of sequence divergence in the set of homologous sequences is required for the identification of conserved residues. However, the development of a method to select homologous sequences appropriate for the identification of conserved residues has not been sufficiently addressed. An objective and general method to select appropriate homologous sequences is desired for the efficient prediction of functional regions.


We have developed a novel index to select the sequences appropriate for the identification of conserved residues, and implemented the index within our method to predict the functional regions of a protein. The implementation of the index improved the performance of the functional region prediction. The index represents the degree of conserved residue clustering on the tertiary structure of the protein. For this purpose, the structure and sequence information were integrated within the index by the application of spatial statistics. Spatial statistics is a field of statistics in which not only the attributes but also the geometrical coordinates of the data are considered simultaneously. Higher degrees of clustering generate larger index scores. We adopted the set of homologous sequences with the highest index score, under the assumption that the best prediction accuracy is obtained when the degree of clustering is the maximum. The set of sequences selected by the index led to higher functional region prediction performance than the sets of sequences selected by other sequence-based methods.


Appropriate homologous sequences are selected automatically and objectively by the index. Such sequence selection improved the performance of functional region prediction. As far as we know, this is the first approach in which spatial statistics have been applied to protein analyses. Such integration of structure and sequence information would be useful for other bioinformatics problems.