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Nucleic Acids Res. 2017 Jul 3;45(W1):W470-W477. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkx341.

HH-MOTiF: de novo detection of short linear motifs in proteins by Hidden Markov Model comparisons.

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Computational Biology Group, Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry, Martinsried, Germany.
Research Group Quantitative Biology and Bioinformatics, Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry, Göttingen, Germany.
Computational Biology Group, Developmental Biology Institute of Marseille (IBDM) UMR 7288, CNRS, Aix Marseille Université, Marseille 13288 Cedex 9, France.


Short linear motifs (SLiMs) in proteins are self-sufficient functional sequences that specify interaction sites for other molecules and thus mediate a multitude of functions. Computational, as well as experimental biological research would significantly benefit, if SLiMs in proteins could be correctly predicted de novo with high sensitivity. However, de novo SLiM prediction is a difficult computational task. When considering recall and precision, the performances of published methods indicate remaining challenges in SLiM discovery. We have developed HH-MOTiF, a web-based method for SLiM discovery in sets of mainly unrelated proteins. HH-MOTiF makes use of evolutionary information by creating Hidden Markov Models (HMMs) for each input sequence and its closely related orthologs. HMMs are compared against each other to retrieve short stretches of homology that represent potential SLiMs. These are transformed to hierarchical structures, which we refer to as motif trees, for further processing and evaluation. Our approach allows us to identify degenerate SLiMs, while still maintaining a reasonably high precision. When considering a balanced measure for recall and precision, HH-MOTiF performs better on test data compared to other SLiM discovery methods. HH-MOTiF is freely available as a web-server at

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