Sequence databases are rapidly growing, thereby increasing the coverage of protein sequence space, but this coverage is uneven because most sequencing efforts have concentrated on a small number of organisms. The resulting granularity of sequence space creates many problems for profile-based sequence comparison programs. In this paper, we suggest several strategies that address these problems, and at the same time speed up the searches for homologous proteins and improve the ability of profile methods to recognize distant homologies. One of our strategies combines database clustering, which removes highly redundant sequence, and a two-step PSI-BLAST (PDB-BLAST), which separates sequence spaces of profile composition and space of homology searching. The combination of these strategies improves distant homology recognitions by more than 100%, while using only 10% of the CPU time of the standard PSI-BLAST search. Another method, intermediate profile searches, allows for the exploration of additional search directions that are normally dominated by large protein sub-families within very diverse families. All methods are evaluated with a large fold-recognition benchmark.