RAPSearch: a fast protein similarity search tool for short reads

BMC Bioinformatics. 2011 May 15;12:159. doi: 10.1186/1471-2105-12-159.


Background: Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) is producing enormous corpuses of short DNA reads, affecting emerging fields like metagenomics. Protein similarity search--a key step to achieve annotation of protein-coding genes in these short reads, and identification of their biological functions--faces daunting challenges because of the very sizes of the short read datasets.

Results: We developed a fast protein similarity search tool RAPSearch that utilizes a reduced amino acid alphabet and suffix array to detect seeds of flexible length. For short reads (translated in 6 frames) we tested, RAPSearch achieved ~20-90 times speedup as compared to BLASTX. RAPSearch missed only a small fraction (~1.3-3.2%) of BLASTX similarity hits, but it also discovered additional homologous proteins (~0.3-2.1%) that BLASTX missed. By contrast, BLAT, a tool that is even slightly faster than RAPSearch, had significant loss of sensitivity as compared to RAPSearch and BLAST.

Conclusions: RAPSearch is implemented as open-source software and is accessible at http://omics.informatics.indiana.edu/mg/RAPSearch. It enables faster protein similarity search. The application of RAPSearch in metageomics has also been demonstrated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Amino Acid Sequence*
  • Metagenomics
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Proteins / chemistry*
  • Search Engine
  • Sequence Alignment / methods
  • Sequence Analysis, Protein / methods*
  • Software*


  • Proteins