Protein domain architectures provide a fast, efficient and scalable alternative to sequence-based methods for comparative functional genomics

F1000Res. 2016 Aug 15:5:1987. doi: 10.12688/f1000research.9416.3. eCollection 2016.


A functional comparative genome analysis is essential to understand the mechanisms underlying bacterial evolution and adaptation. Detection of functional orthologs using standard global sequence similarity methods faces several problems; the need for defining arbitrary acceptance thresholds for similarity and alignment length, lateral gene acquisition and the high computational cost for finding bi-directional best matches at a large scale. We investigated the use of protein domain architectures for large scale functional comparative analysis as an alternative method. The performance of both approaches was assessed through functional comparison of 446 bacterial genomes sampled at different taxonomic levels. We show that protein domain architectures provide a fast and efficient alternative to methods based on sequence similarity to identify groups of functionally equivalent proteins within and across taxonomic boundaries, and it is suitable for large scale comparative analysis. Running both methods in parallel pinpoints potential functional adaptations that may add to bacterial fitness.

Keywords: Bacterial functionome; Bacterial genomics; Horizontal gene transfer; Orthology; clustering; semantic annotation.

Grants and funding

This work was partly supported by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (EmPowerPutida, Contract No. 635536, granted to Vitor A P Martins dos Santos).