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PROSITE is a database of protein families and domains. It is based on the observation that, while there is a huge number of different proteins, most of them can be grouped, on the basis of similarities in their sequences, into a limited number of families. Proteins or protein domains belonging to a particular family generally share functional attributes and are derived from a common ancestor.

It is apparent, when studying protein sequence families, that some regions have been better conserved than others during evolution. These regions are generally important for the function of a protein and/or for the maintenance of its three-dimensional structure. By analyzing the constant and variable properties of such groups of similar sequences, it is possible to derive a signature for a protein family or domain, which distinguishes its members from all other unrelated proteins. A pertinent analogy is the use of fingerprints by the police for identification purposes. A fingerprint is generally sufficient to identify a given individual. Similarly, a protein signature can be used to assign a newly sequenced protein to a specific family of proteins and thus to formulate hypotheses about its function.

PROSITE currently contains patterns and profiles specific for more than a thousand protein families or domains. Each of these signatures comes with documentation providing background information on the structure and function of these proteins.

The PROSITE database is developed and maintained by the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics.


  1. Hulo N, Sigrist CJ, Le Saux V, Langendijk-Genevaux PS, Bordoli L, Gattiker A, De Castro E, Bucher P, and Bairoch A. Recent improvements to the PROSITE database. Nucleic Acids Res. 2004 Jan 1;32(Database issue):D134-7. DOI:10.1093/nar/gkh044 | PubMed ID:14681377 | HubMed [nar2004]
  2. Sigrist CJ, Cerutti L, Hulo N, Gattiker A, Falquet L, Pagni M, Bairoch A, and Bucher P. PROSITE: a documented database using patterns and profiles as motif descriptors. Brief Bioinform. 2002 Sep;3(3):265-74. PubMed ID:12230035 | HubMed [briefbio2002]
  3. Gattiker A, Gasteiger E, and Bairoch A. ScanProsite: a reference implementation of a PROSITE scanning tool. Appl Bioinformatics. 2002;1(2):107-8. PubMed ID:15130850 | HubMed [appbio2002]
  4. Falquet L, Pagni M, Bucher P, Hulo N, Sigrist CJ, Hofmann K, and Bairoch A. The PROSITE database, its status in 2002. Nucleic Acids Res. 2002 Jan 1;30(1):235-8. PubMed ID:11752303 | HubMed [nar2002]
  5. Bucher P and Bairoch A. A generalized profile syntax for biomolecular sequence motifs and its function in automatic sequence interpretation. Proc Int Conf Intell Syst Mol Biol. 1994;2:53-61. PubMed ID:7584418 | HubMed [ismb1994]
All Medline abstracts: PubMed | HubMed
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