High accuracy operon prediction method based on STRING database scores

Nucleic Acids Res. 2010 Jul;38(12):e130. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkq254. Epub 2010 Apr 12.


We present a simple and highly accurate computational method for operon prediction, based on intergenic distances and functional relationships between the protein products of contiguous genes, as defined by STRING database (Jensen,L.J., Kuhn,M., Stark,M., Chaffron,S., Creevey,C., Muller,J., Doerks,T., Julien,P., Roth,A., Simonovic,M. et al. (2009) STRING 8-a global view on proteins and their functional interactions in 630 organisms. Nucleic Acids Res., 37, D412-D416). These two parameters were used to train a neural network on a subset of experimentally characterized Escherichia coli and Bacillus subtilis operons. Our predictive model was successfully tested on the set of experimentally defined operons in E. coli and B. subtilis, with accuracies of 94.6 and 93.3%, respectively. As far as we know, these are the highest accuracies ever obtained for predicting bacterial operons. Furthermore, in order to evaluate the predictable accuracy of our model when using an organism's data set for the training procedure, and a different organism's data set for testing, we repeated the E. coli operon prediction analysis using a neural network trained with B. subtilis data, and a B. subtilis analysis using a neural network trained with E. coli data. Even for these cases, the accuracies reached with our method were outstandingly high, 91.5 and 93%, respectively. These results show the potential use of our method for accurately predicting the operons of any other organism. Our operon predictions for fully-sequenced genomes are available at http://operons.ibt.unam.mx/OperonPredictor/.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacillus subtilis / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Databases, Genetic*
  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Genome, Bacterial*
  • Internet
  • Neural Networks, Computer*
  • Operon*
  • User-Computer Interface


  • Bacterial Proteins