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Genome Biol. 2012 Feb 22;13(2):R12. doi: 10.1186/gb-2012-13-2-r12.

Iterative orthology prediction uncovers new mitochondrial proteins and identifies C12orf62 as the human ortholog of COX14, a protein involved in the assembly of cytochrome c oxidase.

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Centre for Molecular and Biomolecular Informatics, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, Nijmegen, 6500 HB, The Netherlands.



Orthology is a central tenet of comparative genomics and ortholog identification is instrumental to protein function prediction. Major advances have been made to determine orthology relations among a set of homologous proteins. However, they depend on the comparison of individual sequences and do not take into account divergent orthologs.


We have developed an iterative orthology prediction method, Ortho-Profile, that uses reciprocal best hits at the level of sequence profiles to infer orthology. It increases ortholog detection by 20% compared to sequence-to-sequence comparisons. Ortho-Profile predicts 598 human orthologs of mitochondrial proteins from Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Schizosaccharomyces pombe with 94% accuracy. Of these, 181 were not known to localize to mitochondria in mammals. Among the predictions of the Ortho-Profile method are 11 human cytochrome c oxidase (COX) assembly proteins that are implicated in mitochondrial function and disease. Their co-expression patterns, experimentally verified subcellular localization, and co-purification with human COX-associated proteins support these predictions. For the human gene C12orf62, the ortholog of S. cerevisiae COX14, we specifically confirm its role in negative regulation of the translation of cytochrome c oxidase.


Divergent homologs can often only be detected by comparing sequence profiles and profile-based hidden Markov models. The Ortho-Profile method takes advantage of these techniques in the quest for orthologs.

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