Background: Despite significant efforts from the research community, an extensive portion of the proteins encoded by human genes lack an assigned cellular function. Most metazoan proteins are composed of structural and/or functional domains, of which many appear in multiple proteins. Once a domain is characterized in one protein, the presence of a similar sequence in an uncharacterized protein serves as a basis for inference of function. Thus knowledge of a domain's function, or the protein within which it arises, can facilitate the analysis of an entire set of proteins.
Description: From the Pfam domain database, we extracted uncharacterized protein domains represented in proteins from humans, worms, and flies. A data centre was created to facilitate the analysis of the uncharacterized domain-containing proteins. The centre both provides researchers with links to dispersed internet resources containing gene-specific experimental data and enables them to post relevant experimental results or comments. For each human gene in the system, a characterization score is posted, allowing users to track the progress of characterization over time or to identify for study uncharacterized domains in well-characterized genes. As a test of the system, a subset of 39 domains was selected for analysis and the experimental results posted to the NovelFam3000 system. For 25 human protein members of these 39 domain families, detailed sub-cellular localizations were determined. Specific observations are presented based on the analysis of the integrated information provided through the online NovelFam3000 system.
Conclusion: Consistent experimental results between multiple members of a domain family allow for inferences of the domain's functional role. We unite bioinformatics resources and experimental data in order to accelerate the functional characterization of scarcely annotated domain families.