Phylo-PFP: improved automated protein function prediction using phylogenetic distance of distantly related sequences

Bioinformatics. 2019 Mar 1;35(5):753-759. doi: 10.1093/bioinformatics/bty704.


Motivation: Function annotation of proteins is fundamental in contemporary biology across fields including genomics, molecular biology, biochemistry, systems biology and bioinformatics. Function prediction is indispensable in providing clues for interpreting omics-scale data as well as in assisting biologists to build hypotheses for designing experiments. As sequencing genomes is now routine due to the rapid advancement of sequencing technologies, computational protein function prediction methods have become increasingly important. A conventional method of annotating a protein sequence is to transfer functions from top hits of a homology search; however, this approach has substantial short comings including a low coverage in genome annotation.

Results: Here we have developed Phylo-PFP, a new sequence-based protein function prediction method, which mines functional information from a broad range of similar sequences, including those with a low sequence similarity identified by a PSI-BLAST search. To evaluate functional similarity between identified sequences and the query protein more accurately, Phylo-PFP reranks retrieved sequences by considering their phylogenetic distance. Compared to the Phylo-PFP's predecessor, PFP, which was among the top ranked methods in the second round of the Critical Assessment of Functional Annotation (CAFA2), Phylo-PFP demonstrated substantial improvement in prediction accuracy. Phylo-PFP was further shown to outperform prediction programs to date that were ranked top in CAFA2.

Availability and implementation: Phylo-PFP web server is available for at

Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Computational Biology*
  • Databases, Protein
  • Phylogeny*
  • Proteins
  • Sequence Analysis, Protein


  • Proteins