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J Mol Biol. 2007 Oct 26;373(3):801-10. Epub 2007 Aug 22.

Functional specificity lies within the properties and evolutionary changes of amino acids.

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National Center for Biotechnology Information, National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20894, USA.


The rapid increase in the amount of protein sequence data has created a need for automated identification of sites that determine functional specificity among related subfamilies of proteins. A significant fraction of subfamily specific sites are only marginally conserved, which makes it extremely challenging to detect those amino acid changes that lead to functional diversification. To address this critical problem we developed a method named SPEER (specificity prediction using amino acids' properties, entropy and evolution rate) to distinguish specificity determining sites from others. SPEER encodes the conservation patterns of amino acid types using their physico-chemical properties and the heterogeneity of evolutionary changes between and within the subfamilies. To test the method, we compiled a test set containing 13 protein families with known specificity determining sites. Extensive benchmarking by comparing the performance of SPEER with other specificity site prediction algorithms has shown that it performs better in predicting several categories of subfamily specific sites.

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