Motivation: Evolutionary conservation estimated from a multiple sequence alignment is a powerful indicator of the functional significance of a residue and helps to predict active sites, ligand binding sites, and protein interaction interfaces. Many algorithms that calculate conservation work well, provided an accurate and balanced alignment is used. However, such a strong dependence on the alignment makes the results highly variable. We attempted to improve the conservation prediction algorithm by making it more robust and less sensitive to (1) local alignment errors, (2) overrepresentation of sequences in some branches and (3) occasional presence of unrelated sequences. Results: A novel method is presented for robust constrained Bayesian estimation of evolutionary rates that avoids overfitting independent rates and satisfies the above requirements. The method is evaluated and compared with an entropy-based conservation measure on a set of 1494 protein interfaces. We demonstrated that ∼62% of the analyzed protein interfaces are more conserved than the remaining surface at the 5% significance level. A consistent method to incorporate alignment reliability is proposed and demonstrated to reduce arbitrary variation of calculated rates upon inclusion of distantly related or unrelated sequences into the alignment.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Statistics and Probability
- Molecular Biology
- Computer Science Applications
- Computational Theory and Mathematics
- Computational Mathematics