Multiple comparison or alignmentof protein sequences has become a fundamental tool in many different domains in modern molecular biology, from evolutionary studies to prediction of 2D/3D structure, molecular function and inter-molecular interactions etc. By placing the sequence in the framework of the overall family, multiple alignments can be used to identify conserved features and to highlight differences or specificities. In this paper, we describe a comprehensive evaluation of many of the most popular methods for multiple sequence alignment (MSA), based on a new benchmark test set. The benchmark is designed to represent typical problems encountered when aligning the large protein sequence sets that result from today's high throughput biotechnologies. We show that alignmentmethods have significantly progressed and can now identify most of the shared sequence features that determine the broad molecular function(s) of a protein family, even for divergent sequences. However,we have identified a number of important challenges. First, the locally conserved regions, that reflect functional specificities or that modulate a protein's function in a given cellular context,are less well aligned. Second, motifs in natively disordered regions are often misaligned. Third, the badly predicted or fragmentary protein sequences, which make up a large proportion of today's databases, lead to a significant number of alignment errors. Based on this study, we demonstrate that the existing MSA methods can be exploited in combination to improve alignment accuracy, although novel approaches will still be needed to fully explore the most difficult regions. We then propose knowledge-enabled, dynamic solutions that will hopefully pave the way to enhanced alignment construction and exploitation in future evolutionary systems biology studies.