Background: Minimotifs are short contiguous peptide sequences in proteins that have known functions. At its simplest level, the minimotif sequence is present in a source protein and has an activity relationship with a target, most of which are proteins. While many scientists routinely investigate new minimotif functions in proteins, the major web-based discovery tools have a high rate of false-positive prediction. Any new approach that reduces false-positives will be of great help to biologists.
Methods and findings: We have built three filters that use genetic interactions to reduce false-positive minimotif predictions. The basic filter identifies those minimotifs where the source/target protein pairs have a known genetic interaction. The HomoloGene genetic interaction filter extends these predictions to predicted genetic interactions of orthologous proteins and the node-based filter identifies those minimotifs where proteins that have a genetic interaction with the source or target have a genetic interaction. Each filter was evaluated with a test data set containing thousands of true and false-positives. Based on sensitivity and selectivity performance metrics, the basic filter had the best discrimination for true positives, whereas the node-based filter had the highest sensitivity. We have implemented these genetic interaction filters on the Minimotif Miner 2.3 website. The genetic interaction filter is particularly useful for improving predictions of posttranslational modifications such as phosphorylation and proteolytic cleavage sites.
Conclusions: Genetic interaction data sets can be used to reduce false-positive minimotif predictions. Minimotif prediction in known genetic interactions can help to refine the mechanisms behind the functional connection between genes revealed by genetic experimentation and screens.