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J Mol Biol. 2004 Apr 2;337(4):1053-68.

Prediction of functional sites in proteins using conserved functional group analysis.

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National Centre for Biological Sciences, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, UAS-GKVK Campus, Bellary Road, Bangalore 560065, India.


A detailed knowledge of a protein's functional site is an absolute prerequisite for understanding its mode of action at the molecular level. However, the rapid pace at which sequence and structural information is being accumulated for proteins greatly exceeds our ability to determine their biochemical roles experimentally. As a result, computational methods are required which allow for the efficient processing of the evolutionary information contained in this wealth of data, in particular that related to the nature and location of functionally important sites and residues. The method presented here, referred to as conserved functional group (CFG) analysis, relies on a simplified representation of the chemical groups found in amino acid side-chains to identify functional sites from a single protein structure and a number of its sequence homologues. We show that CFG analysis can fully or partially predict the location of functional sites in approximately 96% of the 470 cases tested and that, unlike other methods available, it is able to tolerate wide variations in sequence identity. In addition, we discuss its potential in a structural genomics context, where automation, scalability and efficiency are critical, and an increasing number of protein structures are determined with no prior knowledge of function. This is exemplified by our analysis of the hypothetical protein Ydde_Ecoli, whose structure was recently solved by members of the North East Structural Genomics consortium. Although the proposed active site for this protein needs to be validated experimentally, this example illustrates the scope of CFG analysis as a general tool for the identification of residues likely to play an important role in a protein's biochemical function. Thus, our method offers a convenient solution to rapidly and automatically process the vast amounts of data that are beginning to emerge from structural genomics projects.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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