Database of homology-derived protein structures and the structural meaning of sequence alignment

Proteins. 1991;9(1):56-68. doi: 10.1002/prot.340090107.


The database of known protein three-dimensional structures can be significantly increased by the use of sequence homology, based on the following observations. (1) The database of known sequences, currently at more than 12,000 proteins, is two orders of magnitude larger than the database of known structures. (2) The currently most powerful method of predicting protein structures is model building by homology. (3) Structural homology can be inferred from the level of sequence similarity. (4) The threshold of sequence similarity sufficient for structural homology depends strongly on the length of the alignment. Here, we first quantify the relation between sequence similarity, structure similarity, and alignment length by an exhaustive survey of alignments between proteins of known structure and report a homology threshold curve as a function of alignment length. We then produce a database of homology-derived secondary structure of proteins (HSSP) by aligning to each protein of known structure all sequences deemed homologous on the basis of the threshold curve. For each known protein structure, the derived database contains the aligned sequences, secondary structure, sequence variability, and sequence profile. Tertiary structures of the aligned sequences are implied, but not modeled explicitly. The database effectively increases the number of known protein structures by a factor of five to more than 1800. The results may be useful in assessing the structural significance of matches in sequence database searches, in deriving preferences and patterns for structure prediction, in elucidating the structural role of conserved residues, and in modeling three-dimensional detail by homology.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Calibration
  • Databases, Factual*
  • Genetic Variation
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Protein Conformation
  • Proteins / chemistry*
  • Proteins / genetics
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sequence Homology, Nucleic Acid*
  • Stereoisomerism
  • Thermodynamics


  • Proteins