PaperBLAST – Find papers about a protein or its homologs


Enter a protein sequence in FASTA or Uniprot format,
or an identifier from UniProt, RefSeq, or MicrobesOnline:

Or see example results for the putative alcohol dehydrogenase WP_012018426.1, which is actually the regulator ercA.


The PaperBLAST database links 330,790 different protein sequences to 753,658 scientific articles. Searches against EuropePMC were last performed on October 9 2017.

How It Works

PaperBLAST builds a database of protein sequences that are linked to scientific articles. These links come from automated text searches against the articles in EuropePMC and from manually-curated information from GeneRIF, Swiss-Prot, and EcoCyc. As of September 2017, PaperBLAST links over 340,000 different protein sequences to over 750,000 articles. Given this database and a protein sequence query, PaperBLAST uses protein-protein BLAST to find similar sequences with E < 0.001.

To build the database, we query EuropePMC with locus tags, with RefSeq protein identifiers, and with UniProt accessions. We obtain the locus tags from RefSeq or from MicrobesOnline. We use queries of the form "locus_tag AND genus_name" to try to ensure that the paper is actually discussing that gene. Because EuropePMC indexes most recent biomedical papers, even if they are not open access, some of the links may be to papers that you cannot read or that our computers cannot read. We query each of these identifiers that appears in the open access part of EuropePMC, as well as every locus tag that appears in the 500 most-referenced genomes, so that a gene may appear in the PaperBLAST results even though none of the papers that mention it are open access. We also incorporate text mined links from EuropePMC that link open access articles to UniProt or RefSeq identifiers. (This yields some additional links because EuropePMC uses different heuristics for their text mining than we do.)

For every article that mentions a locus tag, a RefSeq protein identifier, or a UniProt accession, we try to select one or two snippets of text that refer to the protein. If we cannot get access to the full text, we try to select a snippet from the abstract, but unfortunately, unique identifiers such as locus tags are rarely provided in abstracts.

We also use manually-curated links between protein sequences and articles:

For the entries from Swiss-Prot and EcoCyc, we provide a short curated description of the protein's function. Most of these entries also link to articles in PubMed.

For more information see the paper (mSystems 2017) or the code. Also note some changes since the paper was written:

  • September 2017: EuropePMC no longer returns some table entries in their search results. This has shrunk PaperBLAST's database, but has also reduced the number of low-relevance hits.


    PaperBLAST cannot provide snippets for many of the papers that are published in non-open-access journals. This limitation applies even if the paper is marked as "free" on the publisher's web site and is available in PubmedCentral or EuropePMC. If a journal that you publish in is marked as "secret," please consider publishing elsewhere.

    Omissions from the PaperBLAST Database

    Some important articles are missing from PaperBLAST, either because the article's full text is not in EuropePMC (as for many older articles) or because of PaperBLAST's heuristics. If you notice an article that characterizes a protein's function but is missing from PaperBLAST, please notify the curators at UniProt or add an entry to GeneRIF. Entries in either of these databases will eventually be incorporated into PaperBLAST. Note that to add an entry to UniProt, you will need find the UniProt identifier for the protein. If the protein is not already in UniProt, you can ask them to create an entry. To add an entry to GeneRIF, you will need an NCBI Gene identifier, but unfortunately many prokaryotic proteins in RefSeq do not have corresponding Gene identifers.

    by Morgan Price, Arkin group
    Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory