Scoring Matrices

One must be very careful in interpreting the results of sequence alignments like this. Similar sequences may reflect an evolutionary relationship, or they may not. The converse also is true. Collect as much evidence as possible!

In general, if one is seeking evolutionary relationships between proteins, aligning the protein sequences is more useful than aligning the genes coding for them:

Similarity Matrices Any alignment requires some method of judging the quality of fit between the two or more sequences. Any scoring scheme must account for gaps, substitutions, and insertions and deletions.

For nucleic acids, the scoring scheme can be relatively simple; since only four characters occur in the sequences, substitutions are generally not present. BioEdit uses the following values:

Variation Score
Match 2
Mismatch -1
Gap Initiation -3
Extending Gap by 1 -1

JalView penalizes -12 for opening a gap and -2 for a gap extension.

Such a scoring system allows us to compare several possible alignment and choose the "best" - the one with the highest score.

In proteins, amino acid substitutions occur frequently, especially among amino acids of similar physicochemical properties. Alanine (methyl side chain) and valine (isopropyl side chain) are common substitutions for each other, that can occur without making a significant difference in the properties of a protein. Hence, more complicated schemes than that above are required to score alignments.

Perhaps the most widely used scoring matrices for proteins are the BLOSUM (blocks substitution matrix) developed by S. and J. G. Henikoff ["Amino acid substitution matrices from protein blocks", Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 1992, 89 10915-10919.] .

Here is the BLOSUM62 matrix. The diagonal represents identity; positive values are colored lavender.

A R N D C Q E G H I L K M F P S T W Y V B Z X *
A 4 -1 -2 -2 0 -1 -1 0 -2 -1 -1 -1 -1 -2 -1 1 0 -3 -2 0 -2 -1 0 -4
R -1 5 0 -2 -3 1 0 -2 0 -3 -2 2 -1 -3 -2 -1 -1 -3 -2 -3 -1 0 -1 -4
N -2 0 6 1 -3 0 0 0 1 -3 -3 0 -2 -3 -2 1 0 -4 -2 -3 3 0 -1 -4
D -2 -2 1 6 -3 0 2 -1 -1 -3 -4 -1 -3 -3 -1 0 -1 -4 -3 -3 4 1 -1 -4
C 0 -3 -3 -3 9 -3 -4 -3 -3 -1 -1 -3 -1 -2 -3 -1 -1 -2 -2 -1 -3 -3 -2 -4
Q -1 1 0 0 -3 5 2 -2 0 -3 -2 1 0 -3 -1 0 -1 -2 -1 -2 0 3 -1 -4
E -1 0 0 2 -4 2 5 -2 0 -3 -3 1 -2 -3 -1 0 -1 -3 -2 -2 1 4 -1 -4
G 0 -2 0 -1 -3 -2 -2 6 -2 -4 -4 -2 -3 -3 -2 0 -2 -2 -3 -3 -1 -2 -1 -4
H -2 0 1 -1 -3 0 0 -2 8 -3 -3 -1 -2 -1 -2 -1 -2 -2 2 -3 0 0 -1 -4
I -1 -3 -3 -3 -1 -3 -3 -4 -3 4 2 -3 1 0 -3 -2 -1 -3 -1 3 -3 -3 -1 -4
L -1 -2 -3 -4 -1 -2 -3 -4 -3 2 4 -2 2 0 -3 -2 -1 -2 -1 1 -4 -3 -1 -4
K -1 2 0 -1 -3 1 1 -2 -1 -3 -2 5 -1 -3 -1 0 -1 -3 -2 -2 0 1 -1 -4
M -1 -1 -2 -3 -1 0 -2 -3 -2 1 2 -1 5 0 -2 -1 -1 -1 -1 1 -3 -1 -1 -4
F -2 -3 -3 -3 -2 -3 -3 -3 -1 0 0 -3 0 6 -4 -2 -2 1 3 -1 -3 -3 -1 -4
P -1 -2 -2 -1 -3 -1 -1 -2 -2 -3 -3 -1 -2 -4 7 -1 -1 -4 -3 -2 -2 -1 -2 -4
S 1 -1 1 0 -1 0 0 0 -1 -2 -2 0 -1 -2 -1 4 1 -3 -2 -2 0 0 0 -4
T 0 -1 0 -1 -1 -1 -1 -2 -2 -1 -1 -1 -1 -2 -1 1 5 -2 -2 0 -1 -1 0 -4
W -3 -3 -4 -4 -2 -2 -3 -2 -2 -3 -2 -3 -1 1 -4 -3 -2 11 2 -3 -4 -3 -2 -4
Y -2 -2 -2 -3 -2 -1 -2 -3 2 -1 -1 -2 -1 3 -3 -2 -2 2 7 -1 -3 -2 -1 -4
V 0 -3 -3 -3 -1 -2 -2 -3 -3 3 1 -2 1 -1 -2 -2 0 -3 -1 4 -3 -2 -1 -4
B -2 -1 3 4 -3 0 1 -1 0 -3 -4 0 -3 -3 -2 0 -1 -4 -3 -3 4 1 -1 -4
Z -1 0 0 1 -3 3 4 -2 0 -3 -3 1 -1 -3 -1 0 -1 -3 -2 -2 1 4 -1 -4
X 0 -1 -1 -1 -2 -1 -1 -1 -1 -1 -1 -1 -1 -1 -2 0 0 -2 -1 -1 -1 -1 -1 -4
* -4 -4 -4 -4 -4 -4 -4 -4 -4 -4 -4 -4 -4 -4 -4 -4 -4 -4 -4 -4 -4 -4 -4 1

A few explanatory comments:

To look up the value corresponding to the substitution "N->W" (an Asparagine is replaced by a Tryptophan), go to the line of the table labeled "N" and follow this line until you get to the column labeled "W": -4. The substitution "N->W" is not very likely; that is, it does not occur often in closely related proteins. On the other hand, the substitution "V->I" (BLOSUM score: 3) is very likely.


This page last modified 2:08 PM on Tuesday January 29th, 2013.
Webmaster, Department of Chemistry, University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469