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Department of Biological and Medical Sciences
Faculty of Health and Life Sciences
I have recently joined Oxford Brookes as a lecturer. I use computers to study various aspects of proteins
including their function and evolution. For more details please see the Lab Home Page.
Motivation.Many bioinformatics areas require us to assign domain matches onto stretches of a query protein. Starting with a set of candidate matches, we want to identify the optimal subset that has limited/no overlap between matches. This may be further complicated by discontinuous domains in the input data. Existing tools are increasingly facing very large data-sets for which they require prohibitive amounts of CPU-time and memory.
Results.We present cath-resolve-hits (CRH), a new tool that uses a dynamic-programming algorithm implemented in open-source C++ to handle large datasets quickly (up to ∼1 million hits/second) and in reasonable amounts of memory. It accepts multiple input formats and provides its output in plain text, JSON or graphical HTML. We describe a benchmark against an existing algorithm, which shows CRH delivers very similar or slightly improved results and very much improved CPU/memory performance on large datasets.
Gene3D (http://gene3d.biochem.ucl.ac.uk) is a database of globular domain annotations for millions of available protein sequences. Gene3D has previously featured in the Database issue of NAR and here we report a significant update to the Gene3D database. The current release, Gene3D v16, has significantly expanded its domain coverage over the previous version and now contains over 95 million domain assignments. We also report a new method for dealing with complex domain architectures that exist in Gene3D, arising from discontinuous domains. Amongst other updates, we have added visualization tools for exploring domain annotations in the context of other sequence features and in gene families. We also provide web-pages to visualize other domain families that co-occur with a given query domain family.
Protein domains mediate drug-protein interactions and this principle can guide the design of multitarget drugs i.e. polypharmacology. In this study, we associate multi-target drugs with CATH functional families through the overrepresentation of targets of those drugs in CATH functional families. Thus, we identify CATH functional families that are currently enriched in drugs (druggable CATH functional families) and we use the network properties of these druggable protein families to analyse their association with drug side effects. Analysis of selected druggable CATH functional families, enriched in drug targets, show that relatives exhibit highly conserved drug binding sites. Furthermore, relatives within druggable CATH functional families occupy central positions in a human protein functional network, cluster together forming network neighbourhoods and are less likely to be within proteins associated with drug side effects. Our results demonstrate that CATH functional families can be used to identify drug-target interactions, opening a new research direction in target identification.
In spite of extensive recent progress, a comprehensive understanding of how actin cytoskeleton remodelling supports stable junctions remains to be established. Here we design a platform that integrates actin functions with optimized phenotypic clustering and identify new cytoskeletal proteins, their functional hierarchy and pathways that modulate E-cadherin adhesion. Depletion of EEF1A, an actin bundling protein, increases E-cadherin levels at junctions without a corresponding reinforcement of cell–cell contacts. This unexpected result reflects a more dynamic and mobile junctional actin in EEF1A-depleted cells. A partner for EEF1A in cadherin contact maintenance is the formin DIAPH2, which interacts with EEF1A. In contrast, depletion of either the endocytic regulator TRIP10 or the Rho GTPase activator VAV2 reduces E-cadherin levels at junctions. TRIP10 binds to and requires VAV2 function for its junctional localization. Overall, we present new conceptual insights on junction stabilization, which integrate known and novel pathways with impact for epithelial morphogenesis, homeostasis and diseases.
Background: A major bottleneck in our understanding of the molecular underpinnings of life is the assignment of function to proteins. While molecular experiments provide the most reliable annotation of proteins, their relatively low throughput and restricted purview have led to an increasing role for computational function prediction. However, assessing methods for protein function prediction and tracking progress in the field remain challenging. Results: We conducted the second critical assessment of functional annotation (CAFA), a timed challenge to assess computational methods that automatically assign protein function. We evaluated 126 methods from 56 research groups for their ability to predict biological functions using Gene Ontology and gene-disease associations using Human Phenotype Ontology on a set of 3681 proteins from 18 species. CAFA2 featured expanded analysis compared with CAFA1, with regards to data set size, variety, and assessment metrics. To review progress in the field, the analysis compared the best methods from CAFA1 to those of CAFA2. Conclusions: The top-performing methods in CAFA2 outperformed those from CAFA1. This increased accuracy can be attributed to a combination of the growing number of experimental annotations and improved methods for function prediction. The assessment also revealed that the definition of top-performing algorithms is ontology specific, that different performance metrics can be used to probe the nature of accurate predictions, and the relative diversity of predictions in the biological process and human phenotype ontologies. While there was methodological improvement between CAFA1 and CAFA2, the interpretation of results and usefulness of individual methods remain context-dependent.
Disabling neuropathic pain (NeuP) is a common sequel of diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN). We aimed to characterise the sensory phenotype of patients with and without NeuP, assess screening tools for NeuP, and relate DPN severity to NeuP. The Pain in Neuropathy Study (PiNS) is an observational cross-sectional multicentre study. A total of 191 patients with DPN underwent neurological examination, quantitative sensory testing, nerve conduction studies, and skin biopsy for intraepidermal nerve fibre density assessment. A set of questionnaires assessed the presence of pain, pain intensity, pain distribution, and the psychological and functional impact of pain. Patients were divided according to the presence of DPN, and thereafter according to the presence and severity of NeuP. The DN4 questionnaire demonstrated excellent sensitivity (88%) and specificity (93%) in screening for NeuP. There was a positive correlation between greater neuropathy severity (r 5 0.39, P , 0.01), higher HbA1c (r 5 0.21, P , 0.01), and the presence (and severity) of NeuP. Diabetic peripheral neuropathy sensory phenotype is characterised by hyposensitivity to applied stimuli that was more marked in the moderate/severe NeuP group than in the mild NeuP or no NeuP groups. Brush-evoked allodynia was present in only those with NeuP (15%); the paradoxical heat sensation did not discriminate between those with (40%) and without (41.3%) NeuP. The “irritable nociceptor” subgroup could only be applied to a minority of patients (6.3%) with NeuP. This study provides a firm basis to rationalise further phenotyping of painful DPN, for instance, stratification of patients with DPN for analgesic drug trials.
The widening function annotation gap in protein databases and the increasing number and diversity of the proteins being sequenced presents new challenges to protein function prediction methods. Multidomain proteins complicate the protein sequence–structure–function relationship further as new combinations of domains can expand the functional repertoire, creating new proteins and functions. Here, we present the FunFHMMer web server, which provides Gene Ontology (GO) annotations for query protein sequences based on the functional classification of the domain-based CATH-Gene3D resource. Our server also provides valuable information for the prediction of functional sites. The predictive power of FunFHMMer has been validated on a set of 95 proteins where FunFHMMer performs better than BLAST, Pfam and CDD. Recent validation by an independent international competition ranks FunFHMMer as one of the top function prediction methods in predicting GO annotations for both the Biological Process and Molecular Function Ontology. The FunFHMMer web server is available at http://www.cathdb.info/search/by_funfhmmer.
The latest version of the CATH-Gene3D protein structure classification database (4.0, http://www.cathdb.info) provides annotations for over 235 000 protein domain structures and includes 25 million domain predictions. This article provides an update on the major developments in the 2 years since the last publication in this journal including: significant improvements to the predictive power of our functional families (FunFams); the release of our ‘current’ putative domain assignments (CATH-B); a new, strictly non-redundant data set of CATH domains suitable for homology benchmarking experiments (CATH-40) and a number of improvements to the web pages.
The advent of genome-wide RNA interference (RNAi)–based screens puts us in the position to identify genes for all functions human cells carry out. However, for many functions, assay complexity and cost make genome-scale knockdown experiments impossible. Methods to predict genes required for cell functions are therefore needed to focus RNAi screens from the whole genome on the most likely candidates. Although different bioinformatics tools for gene function prediction exist, they lack experimental validation and are therefore rarely used by experimentalists. To address this, we developed an effective computational gene selection strategy that represents public data about genes as graphs and then analyzes these graphs using kernels on graph nodes to predict functional relationships. To demonstrate its performance, we predicted human genes required for a poorly understood cellular function—mitotic chromosome condensation—and experimentally validated the top 100 candidates with a focused RNAi screen by automated microscopy. Quantitative analysis of the images demonstrated that the candidates were indeed strongly enriched in condensation genes, including the discovery of several new factors. By combining bioinformatics prediction with experimental validation, our study shows that kernels on graph nodes are powerful tools to integrate public biological data and predict genes involved in cellular functions of interest.