Proteins of unknown biochemical function: A persistent problem and a roadmap to help overcome it

Thomas D. Niehaus, Antje M.K. Thamm, Valérie De Crécy-Lagard, Andrew D. Hanson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


The number of sequenced genomes is rapidly increasing, but functional annotation of the genes in these genomes lags far behind. Even in Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana), only approximately 40% of enzyme- and transporter-encoding genes have credible functional annotations, and this number is even lower in nonmodel plants. Functional characterization of unknown genes is a challenge, but various databases (e.g. for protein localization and coexpression) can be mined to provide clues. If homologous microbial genes exist—and about one-half the genes encoding unknown enzymes and transporters in Arabidopsis have microbial homologs—cross-kingdom comparative genomics can powerfully complement plant-based data. Multiple lines of evidence can strengthen predictions and warrant experimental characterization. In some cases, relatively quick tests in genetically tractable microbes can determine whether a prediction merits biochemical validation, which is costly and demands specialized skills.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1436-1442
Number of pages7
JournalPlant physiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 American Society of Plant Biologists. All rights Reserved.


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