## Bioinformatics explained: Scoring matrices

Biological sequences have evolved throughout time and evolution has shown that not all changes to a biological sequence is equally likely to happen. Certain amino acid substitutions (change of one amino acid to another) happen often, whereas other substitutions are very rare. For instance, tryptophan (W) which is a relatively rare amino acid, will only -- on very rare occasions -- mutate into a leucine (L).

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

Based on evolution of proteins it became apparent that these changes or substitutions of amino acids can be modeled by a scoring matrix also refereed to as a substitution matrix. See an example of a scoring matrix in the table above. This matrix lists the substitution scores of every single amino acid. A score for an aligned amino acid pair is found at the intersection of the corresponding column and row. For example, the substitution score from an arginine (R) to a lysine (K) is 2. The diagonal show scores for amino acids which have not changed. Most substitutions changes have a negative score. Only rounded numbers are found in this matrix.

The two most used matrices are the BLOSUM [Henikoff and Henikoff, 1992] and PAM [Dayhoff and Schwartz, 1978].

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