Comparison of sequence profiles. Strategies for structural predictions using sequence information

Protein Sci. 2000 Feb;9(2):232-41. doi: 10.1110/ps.9.2.232.


Distant homologies between proteins are often discovered only after three-dimensional structures of both proteins are solved. The sequence divergence for such proteins can be so large that simple comparison of their sequences fails to identify any similarity. New generation of sensitive alignment tools use averaged sequences of entire homologous families (profiles) to detect such homologies. Several algorithms, including the newest generation of BLAST algorithms and BASIC, an algorithm used in our group to assign fold predictions for proteins from several genomes, are compared to each other on the large set of structurally similar proteins with little sequence similarity. Proteins in the benchmark are classified according to the level of their similarity, which allows us to demonstrate that most of the improvement of the new algorithms is achieved for proteins with strong functional similarities, with almost no progress in recognizing distant fold similarities. It is also shown that details of profile calculation strongly influence its sensitivity in recognizing distant homologies. The most important choice is how to include information from diverging members of the family, avoiding generating false predictions, while accounting for entire sequence divergence within a family. PSI-BLAST takes a conservative approach, deriving a profile from core members of the family, providing a solid improvement without almost any false predictions. BASIC strives for better sensitivity by increasing the weight of divergent family members and paying the price in lower reliability. A new FFAS algorithm introduced here uses a new procedure for profile generation that takes into account all the relations within the family and matches BASIC sensitivity with PSI-BLAST like reliability.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Databases, Factual
  • Models, Molecular
  • Protein Folding
  • Protein Structure, Secondary
  • Proteins / chemistry*
  • Sequence Alignment / methods
  • Sequence Alignment / statistics & numerical data
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Software


  • Proteins