Protein subfamily assignment using the Conserved Domain Database
National Center for Biotechnology Information, National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, 8600 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, MD 20894, USA
BMC Research Notes 2008, 1:114 doi:10.1186/1756-0500-1-114Published: 14 November 2008
Domains, evolutionarily conserved units of proteins, are widely used to classify protein sequences and infer protein function. Often, two or more overlapping domain models match a region of a protein sequence. Therefore, procedures are required to choose appropriate domain annotations for the protein. Here, we propose a method for assigning NCBI-curated domains from the Curated Domain Database (CDD) that takes into account the organization of the domains into hierarchies of homologous domain models.
Our analysis of alignment scores from NCBI-curated domain assignments suggests that identifying the correct model among closely related models is more difficult than choosing between non-overlapping domain models. We find that simple heuristics based on sorting scores and domain-specific thresholds are effective at reducing classification error. In fact, in our test set, the heuristics result in almost 90% of current misclassifications due to missing domain subfamilies being replaced by more generic domain assignments, thereby eliminating a significant amount of error within the database.
Our proposed domain subfamily assignment rule has been incorporated into the CD-Search software for assigning CDD domains to query protein sequences and has significantly improved pre-calculated domain annotations on protein sequences in NCBI's Entrez resource.