Automated construction and graphical presentation of protein blocks from unaligned sequences

Gene. 1995 Oct 3;163(2):GC17-26. doi: 10.1016/0378-1119(95)00486-p.


Protein blocks consist of multiply aligned sequence segments that correspond to the most highly conserved regions of protein families. Typically, a set of related proteins has more than one region in common and their relationship can be represented as a series of ungapped blocks separated by unaligned regions. Blockmaker is an automated system available by electronic mail ( and the World Wide Web (http://www.blocks.fhcrc.org4) that finds blocks in a group of related protein sequences submitted by the user. It adapts and extends existing algorithms to make them useful to biologists looking for conserved regions in a group of related proteins sequences. Two sets of blocks are returned, one in which candidate blocks are detected using the MOTIF algorithm and the other using a Gibbs sampler algorithm that has been adapted for full automation. This use of two block-finding methods based on completely different principles provides a 'reality check,' whereby a block detected by both methods is considered to be correct. Resulting blocks can be displayed using the information-based 'sequence logo' method, adapted to incorporate sequence weights, which provides an intuitive visual description of both the residue and the conservation information at each position. Blocks generated by this system are useful in diverse applications, such as searching databases and designing degenerate PCR primers. As an example, blocks made from amino acid sequences related to Caenorhabditis elegans Tc1 transposase were used to search GenBank, revealing that several fish and amphibian genomic sequences harbor previously unreported Tc1 homologs.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Amino Acid Sequence*
  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / enzymology
  • Computer Graphics*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / chemistry
  • Databases, Factual*
  • Information Storage and Retrieval
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Nucleotidyltransferases / chemistry
  • Proteins / chemistry
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Software Design*
  • Transposases*


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Proteins
  • Nucleotidyltransferases
  • Tc1 transposase
  • Transposases