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Background: In the last decade, there have been many applications of formal language theory in bioinformatics such as RNA structure prediction and detection of patterns in DNA. However, in the field of proteomics, the size of the protein alphabet and the complexity of relationship between amino acids have mainly limited the application of formal language theory to the production of grammars whose expressive power is not higher than stochastic regular grammars. However, these grammars, like other state of the art methods, cannot cover any higher-order dependencies such as nested and crossing relationships that are common in proteins. In order to overcome some of these limitations, we propose a Stochastic Context Free Grammar based framework for the analysis of protein sequences where grammars are induced using a genetic algorithm. Results: This framework was implemented in a system aiming at the production of binding site descriptors. These descriptors not only allow detection of protein regions that are involved in these sites, but also provide insight in their structure. Grammars were induced using quantitative properties of amino acids to deal with the size of the protein alphabet. Moreover, we imposed some structural constraints on grammars to reduce the extent of the rule search space. Finally, grammars based on different properties were combined to convey as much information as possible. Evaluation was performed on sites of various sizes and complexity described either by PROSITE patterns, domain profiles or a set of patterns. Results show the produced binding site descriptors are human-readable and, hence, highlight biologically meaningful features. Moreover, they achieve good accuracy in both annotation and detection. In addition, findings suggest that, unlike current state-of-the-art methods, our system may be particularly suited to deal with patterns shared by non-homologous proteins. Conclusion: A new Stochastic Context Free Grammar based framework has been introduced allowing the production of binding site descriptors for analysis of protein sequences. Experiments have shown that not only is this new approach valid, but produces human-readable descriptors for binding sites which have been beyond the capability of current machine learning techniques. © 2009 Dyrka and Nebel; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.
Dyrka, W., & Nebel, J. C. (2009). A stochastic context free grammar based framework for analysis of protein sequences. BMC Bioinformatics, 10, 323. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2105-10-323