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BMC Bioinformatics. 2009 Apr 13;10:107. doi: 10.1186/1471-2105-10-107.

EFICAz2: enzyme function inference by a combined approach enhanced by machine learning.

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  • 1Center for the Study of Systems Biology, School of Biology, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia 30318, USA. adrian.arakaki@gatech.edu



We previously developed EFICAz, an enzyme function inference approach that combines predictions from non-completely overlapping component methods. Two of the four components in the original EFICAz are based on the detection of functionally discriminating residues (FDRs). FDRs distinguish between member of an enzyme family that are homofunctional (classified under the EC number of interest) or heterofunctional (annotated with another EC number or lacking enzymatic activity). Each of the two FDR-based components is associated to one of two specific kinds of enzyme families. EFICAz exhibits high precision performance, except when the maximal test to training sequence identity (MTTSI) is lower than 30%. To improve EFICAz's performance in this regime, we: i) increased the number of predictive components and ii) took advantage of consensual information from the different components to make the final EC number assignment.


We have developed two new EFICAz components, analogs to the two FDR-based components, where the discrimination between homo and heterofunctional members is based on the evaluation, via Support Vector Machine models, of all the aligned positions between the query sequence and the multiple sequence alignments associated to the enzyme families. Benchmark results indicate that: i) the new SVM-based components outperform their FDR-based counterparts, and ii) both SVM-based and FDR-based components generate unique predictions. We developed classification tree models to optimally combine the results from the six EFICAz components into a final EC number prediction. The new implementation of our approach, EFICAz2, exhibits a highly improved prediction precision at MTTSI < 30% compared to the original EFICAz, with only a slight decrease in prediction recall. A comparative analysis of enzyme function annotation of the human proteome by EFICAz2 and KEGG shows that: i) when both sources make EC number assignments for the same protein sequence, the assignments tend to be consistent and ii) EFICAz2 generates considerably more unique assignments than KEGG.


Performance benchmarks and the comparison with KEGG demonstrate that EFICAz2 is a powerful and precise tool for enzyme function annotation, with multiple applications in genome analysis and metabolic pathway reconstruction. The EFICAz2 web service is available at: http://cssb.biology.gatech.edu/skolnick/webservice/EFICAz2/index.html.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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