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PLoS One. 2013;8(2):e46572. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0046572. Epub 2013 Feb 6.

ETMB-RBF: discrimination of metal-binding sites in electron transporters based on RBF networks with PSSM profiles and significant amino acid pairs.

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  • 1Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Yuan Ze University, Chung-Li, Taiwan.



Cellular respiration is the process by which cells obtain energy from glucose and is a very important biological process in living cell. As cells do cellular respiration, they need a pathway to store and transport electrons, the electron transport chain. The function of the electron transport chain is to produce a trans-membrane proton electrochemical gradient as a result of oxidation-reduction reactions. In these oxidation-reduction reactions in electron transport chains, metal ions play very important role as electron donor and acceptor. For example, Fe ions are in complex I and complex II, and Cu ions are in complex IV. Therefore, to identify metal-binding sites in electron transporters is an important issue in helping biologists better understand the workings of the electron transport chain.


We propose a method based on Position Specific Scoring Matrix (PSSM) profiles and significant amino acid pairs to identify metal-binding residues in electron transport proteins.


We have selected a non-redundant set of 55 metal-binding electron transport proteins as our dataset. The proposed method can predict metal-binding sites in electron transport proteins with an average 10-fold cross-validation accuracy of 93.2% and 93.1% for metal-binding cysteine and histidine, respectively. Compared with the general metal-binding predictor from A. Passerini et al., the proposed method can improve over 9% of sensitivity, and 14% specificity on the independent dataset in identifying metal-binding cysteines. The proposed method can also improve almost 76% sensitivity with same specificity in metal-binding histidine, and MCC is also improved from 0.28 to 0.88.


We have developed a novel approach based on PSSM profiles and significant amino acid pairs for identifying metal-binding sites from electron transport proteins. The proposed approach achieved a significant improvement with independent test set of metal-binding electron transport proteins.

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