A predictor for toxin-like proteins exposes cell modulator candidates within viral genomes

Guy Naamati, Manor Askenazi, Michal Linial*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Motivation: Animal toxins operate by binding to receptors and ion channels. These proteins are short and vary in sequence, structure and function. Sporadic discoveries have also revealed endogenous toxin-like proteins in non-venomous organisms. Viral proteins are the largest group of quickly evolving proteomes. We tested the hypothesis that toxin-like proteins exist in viruses and that they act to modulate functions of their hosts. Results: We updated and improved a classifier for compact proteins resembling short animal toxins that is based on a machine-learning method. We applied it in a large-scale setting to identify toxin-like proteins among short viral proteins. Among the ~26 000 representatives of such short proteins, 510 sequences were positively identified. We focused on the 19 highest scoring proteins. Among them, we identified conotoxin-like proteins, growth factors receptor-like proteins and anti-bacterial peptides. Our predictor was shown to enhance annotation inference for many 'uncharacterized' proteins. We conclude that our protocol can expose toxin-like proteins in unexplored niches including metagenomics data and enhance the systematic discovery of novel cell modulators for drug development.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numberbtq375
Pages (from-to)i482-i488
Issue number18
StatePublished - 4 Sep 2010


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