AQUA: automated quality improvement for multiple sequence alignments
ABSTRACT Multiple sequence alignment (MSA) is a central tool in most modern biology studies. However, despite generations of valuable tools, human experts are still able to improve automatically generated MSAs. In an effort to automatically identify the most reliable MSA for a given protein family, we propose a very simple protocol, named AQUA for 'Automated quality improvement for multiple sequence alignments'. Our current implementation relies on two alignment programs (MUSCLE and MAFFT), one refinement program (RASCAL) and one assessment program (NORMD), but other programs could be incorporated at any of the three steps. Availability: AQUA is implemented in Tcl/Tk and runs in command line on all platforms. The source code is available under the GNU GPL license. Source code, README and Supplementary data are available at http://www.bork.embl.de/Docu/AQUA.
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ABSTRACT: Various post-translational modifications (PTMs) fine-tune the functions of almost all eukaryotic proteins, and co-regulation of different types of PTMs has been shown within and between a number of proteins. Aiming at a more global view of the interplay between PTM types, we collected modifications for 13 frequent PTM types in 8 eukaryotes, compared their speed of evolution and developed a method for measuring PTM co-evolution within proteins based on the co-occurrence of sites across eukaryotes. As many sites are still to be discovered, this is a considerable underestimate, yet, assuming that most co-evolving PTMs are functionally associated, we found that PTM types are vastly interconnected, forming a global network that comprise in human alone >50,000 residues in about 6000 proteins. We predict substantial PTM type interplay in secreted and membrane-associated proteins and in the context of particular protein domains and short-linear motifs. The global network of co-evolving PTM types implies a complex and intertwined post-translational regulation landscape that is likely to regulate multiple functional states of many if not all eukaryotic proteins.Molecular Systems Biology 07/2012; 8:599. DOI:10.1038/msb.2012.31
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ABSTRACT: The var gene encoded hyper-variable Plasmodium falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein 1 (PfEMP1) family mediates cytoadhesion of infected erythrocytes to human endothelium. Antibodies blocking cytoadhesion are important mediators of malaria immunity acquired by endemic populations. The development of a PfEMP1 based vaccine mimicking natural acquired immunity depends on a thorough understanding of the evolved PfEMP1 diversity, balancing antigenic variation against conserved receptor binding affinities. This study redefines and reclassifies the domains of PfEMP1 from seven genomes. Analysis of domains in 399 different PfEMP1 sequences allowed identification of several novel domain classes, and a high degree of PfEMP1 domain compositional order, including conserved domain cassettes not always associated with the established group A-E division of PfEMP1. A novel iterative homology block (HB) detection method was applied, allowing identification of 628 conserved minimal PfEMP1 building blocks, describing on average 83% of a PfEMP1 sequence. Using the HBs, similarities between domain classes were determined, and Duffy binding-like (DBL) domain subclasses were found in many cases to be hybrids of major domain classes. Related to this, a recombination hotspot was uncovered between DBL subdomains S2 and S3. The VarDom server is introduced, from which information on domain classes and homology blocks can be retrieved, and new sequences can be classified. Several conserved sequence elements were found, including: (1) residues conserved in all DBL domains predicted to interact and hold together the three DBL subdomains, (2) potential integrin binding sites in DBLα domains, (3) an acylation motif conserved in group A var genes suggesting N-terminal N-myristoylation, (4) PfEMP1 inter-domain regions proposed to be elastic disordered structures, and (5) several conserved predicted phosphorylation sites. Ideally, this comprehensive categorization of PfEMP1 will provide a platform for future studies on var/PfEMP1 expression and function.PLoS Computational Biology 09/2010; 6(9). DOI:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000933
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ABSTRACT: Multiple sequence alignment (MSA) is a cornerstone of modern molecular biology and represents a unique means of investigating the patterns of conservation and diversity in complex biological systems. Many different algorithms have been developed to construct MSAs, but previous studies have shown that no single aligner consistently outperforms the rest. This has led to the development of a number of 'meta-methods' that systematically run several aligners and merge the output into one single solution. Although these methods generally produce more accurate alignments, they are inefficient because all the aligners need to be run first and the choice of the best solution is made a posteriori. Here, we describe the development of a new expert system, AlexSys, for the multiple alignment of protein sequences. AlexSys incorporates an intelligent inference engine to automatically select an appropriate aligner a priori, depending only on the nature of the input sequences. The inference engine was trained on a large set of reference multiple alignments, using a novel machine learning approach. Applying AlexSys to a test set of 178 alignments, we show that the expert system represents a good compromise between alignment quality and running time, making it suitable for high throughput projects. AlexSys is freely available from http://alnitak.u-strasbg.fr/∼aniba/alexsys.Nucleic Acids Research 10/2010; 38(19):6338-49. DOI:10.1093/nar/gkq526