3DCoffee: Combining protein sequences and structures within multiple sequence alignments

Orla O'Sullivan, Karsten Suhre, Chantal Abergel, Desmond G. Higgins, Cédric Notredame

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

233 Citations (Scopus)


Most bioinformatics analyses require the assembly of a multiple sequence alignment. It has long been suspected that structural information can help to improve the quality of these alignments, yet the effect of combining sequences and structures has not been evaluated systematically. We developed 3DCoffee, a novel method for combining protein sequences and structures in order to generate high-quality multiple sequence alignments. 3DCoffee is based on TCoffee version 2.00, and uses a mixture of pairwise sequence alignments and pairwise structure comparison methods to generate multiple sequence alignments. We benchmarked 3DCoffee using a subset of HOMSTRAD, the collection of reference structural alignments. We found that combining TCoffee with the threading program Fugue makes it possible to improve the accuracy of our HOMSTRAD dataset by four percentage points when using one structure only per dataset. Using two structures yields an improvement of ten percentage points. The measures carried out on HOM39, a HOMSTRAD subset composed of distantly related sequences, show a linear correlation between multiple sequence alignment accuracy and the ratio of number of provided structure to total number of sequences. Our results suggest that in the case of distantly related sequences, a single structure may not be enough for computing an accurate multiple sequence alignment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)385-395
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Molecular Biology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jul 2004



  • CS, column score
  • DP, dynamic programming
  • MSA, multiple protein sequence alignment(s)
  • NW, Needlman & Wunsch
  • S-MSA, structure-based MSA
  • TCoffee
  • multiple alignment
  • sap
  • structural superposition
  • threading

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology
  • Molecular Biology

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