Motivation: Homologous protein families share highly conserved sequence and structure regions that are frequent targets for comparative analysis of related proteins and families. Many protein families, such as the curated domain families in the Conserved Domain Database (CDD), exhibit similar structural cores. To improve accuracy in aligning such protein families, we propose a profile-profile method CORAL that aligns individual core regions as gap-free units.
Results: CORAL computes optimal local alignment of two profiles with heuristics to preserve continuity within core regions. We benchmarked its performance on curated domains in CDD, which have pre-defined core regions, against COMPASS, HHalign and PSI-BLAST, using structure superpositions and comprehensive curator-optimized alignments as standards of truth. CORAL improves alignment accuracy on core regions over general profile methods, returning a balanced score of 0.57 for over 80% of all domain families in CDD, compared with the highest balanced score of 0.45 from other methods. Further, CORAL provides E-values to aid in detecting homologous protein families and, by respecting block boundaries, produces alignments with improved 'readability' that facilitate manual refinement.
Availability: CORAL will be included in future versions of the NCBI Cn3D/CDTree software, which can be downloaded at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/Structure/cdtree/cdtree.shtml.
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.