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Biochemistry. 2017 Aug 22;56(33):4293-4308. doi: 10.1021/acs.biochem.7b00614.

Genomic Enzymology: Web Tools for Leveraging Protein Family Sequence-Function Space and Genome Context to Discover Novel Functions.

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Departments of Biochemistry and Chemistry, Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois , Urbana-Champaign Urbana, Illinois 61801, United States.


The exponentially increasing number of protein and nucleic acid sequences provides opportunities to discover novel enzymes, metabolic pathways, and metabolites/natural products, thereby adding to our knowledge of biochemistry and biology. The challenge has evolved from generating sequence information to mining the databases to integrating and leveraging the available information, i.e., the availability of "genomic enzymology" web tools. Web tools that allow identification of biosynthetic gene clusters are widely used by the natural products/synthetic biology community, thereby facilitating the discovery of novel natural products and the enzymes responsible for their biosynthesis. However, many novel enzymes with interesting mechanisms participate in uncharacterized small-molecule metabolic pathways; their discovery and functional characterization also can be accomplished by leveraging information in protein and nucleic acid databases. This Perspective focuses on two genomic enzymology web tools that assist the discovery novel metabolic pathways: (1) Enzyme Function Initiative-Enzyme Similarity Tool (EFI-EST) for generating sequence similarity networks to visualize and analyze sequence-function space in protein families and (2) Enzyme Function Initiative-Genome Neighborhood Tool (EFI-GNT) for generating genome neighborhood networks to visualize and analyze the genome context in microbial and fungal genomes. Both tools have been adapted to other applications to facilitate target selection for enzyme discovery and functional characterization. As the natural products community has demonstrated, the enzymology community needs to embrace the essential role of web tools that allow the protein and genome sequence databases to be leveraged for novel insights into enzymological problems.

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