Protein function prediction is a central problem in bioinformatics, increasing in importance recently due to the rapid accumulation of biological data awaiting interpretation. Sequence data represents the bulk of this new stock and is the obvious target for consideration as input, as newly sequenced organisms often lack any other type of biological characterization. We have previously introduced PFP (Protein Function Prediction) as our sequence-based predictor of Gene Ontology (GO) functional terms. PFP interprets the results of a PSI-BLAST search by extracting and scoring individual functional attributes, searching a wide range of E-value sequence matches, and utilizing conventional data mining techniques to fill in missing information. We have shown it to be effective in predicting both specific and low-resolution functional attributes when sufficient data is unavailable. Here we describe (1) significant improvements to the PFP infrastructure, including the addition of prediction significance and confidence scores, (2) a thorough benchmark of performance and comparisons to other related prediction methods, and (3) applications of PFP predictions to genome-scale data. We applied PFP predictions to uncharacterized protein sequences from 15 organisms. Among these sequences, 60-90% could be annotated with a GO molecular function term at high confidence (>or=80%). We also applied our predictions to the protein-protein interaction network of the Malaria plasmodium (Plasmodium falciparum). High confidence GO biological process predictions (>or=90%) from PFP increased the number of fully enriched interactions in this dataset from 23% of interactions to 94%. Our benchmark comparison shows significant performance improvement of PFP relative to GOtcha, InterProScan, and PSI-BLAST predictions. This is consistent with the performance of PFP as the overall best predictor in both the AFP-SIG '05 and CASP7 function (FN) assessments. PFP is available as a web service at http://dragon.bio.purdue.edu/pfp/.
(c) 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.