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PLoS Comput Biol. 2016 Jul 29;12(7):e1004976. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1004976. eCollection 2016 Jul.

PhyloBot: A Web Portal for Automated Phylogenetics, Ancestral Sequence Reconstruction, and Exploration of Mutational Trajectories.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California, United States of America.


The method of phylogenetic ancestral sequence reconstruction is a powerful approach for studying evolutionary relationships among protein sequence, structure, and function. In particular, this approach allows investigators to (1) reconstruct and "resurrect" (that is, synthesize in vivo or in vitro) extinct proteins to study how they differ from modern proteins, (2) identify key amino acid changes that, over evolutionary timescales, have altered the function of the protein, and (3) order historical events in the evolution of protein function. Widespread use of this approach has been slow among molecular biologists, in part because the methods require significant computational expertise. Here we present PhyloBot, a web-based software tool that makes ancestral sequence reconstruction easy. Designed for non-experts, it integrates all the necessary software into a single user interface. Additionally, PhyloBot provides interactive tools to explore evolutionary trajectories between ancestors, enabling the rapid generation of hypotheses that can be tested using genetic or biochemical approaches. Early versions of this software were used in previous studies to discover genetic mechanisms underlying the functions of diverse protein families, including V-ATPase ion pumps, DNA-binding transcription regulators, and serine/threonine protein kinases. PhyloBot runs in a web browser, and is available at the following URL: The software is implemented in Python using the Django web framework, and runs on elastic cloud computing resources from Amazon Web Services. Users can create and submit jobs on our free server (at the URL listed above), or use our open-source code to launch their own PhyloBot server.

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