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New Biol. 1991 Dec;3(12):1148-54.

Playing with blocks: some pitfalls of forcing multiple alignments.

Author information

  • Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, WA 98104.


Block alignments of multiple amino acid sequences are useful representations of regions thought to share common ancestry and function. Often the block alignments are motivated by the expectation that a protein of interest is similar in function to members of a family of proteins. However, when alignments are forced by using ad hoc methods, it is often difficult to decide whether the proposed relationship is valid. Visual examination can be deceptive, especially when alignments are not carried out in the context of controls subjected to similar procedures. Even computer-aided methods can be misleading when biases are introduced. To illustrate some of the problems that can arise, a few examples from the literature are analyzed. It is concluded that when standard methods fail to find an interesting block alignment unaided by human intervention, then the result should be regarded with caution.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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