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Biochemistry. 2005 May 17;44(19):7156-65.

Mutual information in protein multiple sequence alignments reveals two classes of coevolving positions.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, The University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada, N6A 5C1. ggloor@uwo.ca


Information theory was used to identify nonconserved coevolving positions in multiple sequence alignments from a variety of protein families. Coevolving positions in these alignments fall into two general categories. One set is composed of positions that coevolve with only one or two other positions. These positions often display direct amino acid side-chain interactions with their coevolving partner. The other set comprises positions that coevolve with many others and are frequently located in regions critical for protein function, such as active sites and surfaces involved in intermolecular interactions and recognition. We find that coevolving positions are more likely to change protein function when mutated than are positions showing little coevolution. These results imply that information theory may be applied generally to find coevolving, nonconserved positions that are part of functional sites in uncharacterized protein families. We propose that these coevolving positions compose an important subset of the positions in an alignment, and may be as important to the structure and function of the protein family as are highly conserved positions.

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