Introduction — Patterns, Predictions and Problems
The revolution in molecular biology in the seventies began an explosion in the elucidation of biological sequence data that has revealed the sequences of many familiar proteins and many more new proteins, often of unknown function. One of the pressing problems in molecular biology is how to interpret these data to allow informed progress in the study of the proteins whose sequences have been determined. If a new sequence has a clear similarity to a protein of known function (and perhaps even structure) then much can be learnt very rapidly by simply recognising the homology. However, all too often a search across the sequence databanks returns no significant match or perhaps only a match to an equally un-characterised protein. Faced with this situation, two lines can be pursued: one is to look for fragmentary similarities with other proteins rather than search for a similarity over the whole of the new sequence and the other is to attempt to predict the structure of the new protein. Both approaches rely on identifying characteristic sequence patterns and where possible, relating these to known structures.
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