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J Mol Biol. 2001 Mar 23;307(2):721-35.

Pairwise sequence alignment below the twilight zone.

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  • 1Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology, University of California, Box 0450, San Francisco, CA 94143, USA.


Improved sequence alignment at low pairwise identity is important for identifying potential remote homologues in database searches and for obtaining accurate alignments as a prelude to modeling structures by homology. Our work is motivated by two observations: structural data provide superior training examples for developing techniques to improve the alignment of remote homologues; and general substitution patterns for remote homologues differ from those of closely related proteins. We introduce a new set of amino acid residue interchange matrices built from structural superposition data. These matrices exploit known structural homology as a means of characterizing the effect evolution has on residue-substitution profiles. Given their origin, it is not surprising that the individual residue-residue interchange frequencies are chemically sensible. The structural interchange matrices show a significant increase both in pairwise alignment accuracy and in functional annotation/fold recognition accuracy across distantly related sequences. We demonstrate improved pairwise alignment by using superpositions of homologous domains extracted from a structural database as a gold standard and go on to show an increase in fold recognition accuracy using a database of homologous fold families. This was applied to the unassigned open reading frames from the genome of Helicobacter pylori to identify five matches, two of which are not represented by new annotations in the sequence databases. In addition, we describe a new cyclic permutation strategy to identify distant homologues that experienced gene duplication and subsequent deletions. Using this method, we have identified a potential homologue to one additional previously unassigned open reading frame from the H. pylori genome.

Copyright 2001 Academic Press.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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