SMOTIF: Efficient structured pattern and profile motif search

Yongqiang Zhang, Mohammed J. Zaki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

22 Citations (Scopus)


Background: A structured motif allows variable length gaps between several components, where each component is a simple motif, which allows either no gaps or only fixed length gaps. The motif can either be represented as a pattern or a profile (also called positional weight matrix). We propose an efficient algorithm, called SMOTIF, to solve the structured motif search problem, i.e., given one or more sequences and a structured motif, SMOTIF searches the sequences for all occurrences of the motif. Potential applications include searching for long terminal repeat (LTR) retrotransposons and composite regulatory binding sites in DNA sequences. Results: SMOTIF can search for both pattern and profile motifs, and it is efficient in terms of both time and space; it outperforms SMARTFINDER, a state-of-the-art algorithm for structured motif search. Experimental results show that SMOTIF is about 7 times faster and consumes 100 times less memory than SMARTFINDER. It can effectively search for LTR retrotransposons and is well suited to searching for motifs with long range gaps. It is also successful in finding potential composite transcription factor binding sites. Conclusion: SMOTIF is a useful and efficient tool in searching for structured pattern and profile motifs. The algorithm is available as open-source at:

Original languageEnglish
Article number22
JournalAlgorithms for Molecular Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 21 Nov 2006


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics
  • Applied Mathematics

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