Background: Functional profiling is a key technique to characterize and compare the functional potential of entire genomes. The estimation of profiles according to an assignment of sequences to functional categories is a computationally expensive task because it requires the comparison of all protein sequences from a genome with a usually large database of annotated sequences or sequence families.
Description: Based on machine learning techniques for Pfam domain detection, the UFO web server for ultra-fast functional profiling allows researchers to process large protein sequence collections instantaneously. Besides the frequencies of Pfam and GO categories, the user also obtains the sequence specific assignments to Pfam domain families. In addition, a comparison with existing genomes provides dissimilarity scores with respect to 821 reference proteomes. Considering the underlying UFO domain detection, the results on 206 test genomes indicate a high sensitivity of the approach. In comparison with current state-of-the-art HMMs, the runtime measurements show a considerable speed up in the range of four orders of magnitude. For an average size prokaryotic genome, the computation of a functional profile together with its comparison typically requires about 10 seconds of processing time.
Conclusion: For the first time the UFO web server makes it possible to get a quick overview on the functional inventory of newly sequenced organisms. The genome scale comparison with a large number of precomputed profiles allows a first guess about functionally related organisms. The service is freely available and does not require user registration or specification of a valid email address.