Maximising the Size of Non-Redundant Protein Datasets Using Graph Theory

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    Analysis of protein data sets often requires prior removal of redundancy, so that data is not biased by containing similar proteins. This is usually achieved by pairwise comparison of sequences, followed by purging so that no two pairs have similarities above a chosen threshold. From a starting set, such as the PDB or a genome, one should remove as few sequences as possible, to give the largest possible non-redundant set for subsequent analysis. Protein redundancy can be represented as a graph, with proteins as nodes connected by undirected edges, if they have a pairwise similarity above the chosen threshold. The problem is then equivalent to finding the maximum independent set (MIS), where as few nodes are removed as possible to remove all edges. We tested seven MIS algorithms, three of which are new. We applied the methods to the PDB, subsets of the PDB, various genomes and the BHOLSIB benchmark datasets. For PDB subsets of up to 1000 proteins, we could compare to the exact MIS, found by the Cliquer algorithm. The best algorithm was the new method, Leaf. This works by adding clique members that have no edges to nodes outside the clique to the MIS, starting with the smallest cliques. For PDB subsets of up to 1000 members, it usually finds the MIS and is fast enough to apply to data sets of tens of thousands of proteins. Leaf gives sets that are around 10% larger than the commonly used PISCES algorithm, that are of identical quality. We therefore suggest that Leaf should be the method of choice for generating non-redundant protein data sets, though it is ineffective on dense graphs, such as the BHOLSIB benchmarks. The Leaf algorithm is available at:, and sets from genomes and the PDB are available at: © 2013 Bull et al.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere55484
    JournalPLoS ONE
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 5 Feb 2013


    • graph theory
    • bioinformatics
    • protein sequence
    • algorithms


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