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.

Related Tools

For advice on how to use these tools together, see Interactive tools for functional annotation of bacterial genomes.


The PaperBLAST database links 770,027 different protein sequences to 1,234,917 scientific articles. Searches against EuropePMC were last performed on May 15 2024.

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, UniProtKB/Swiss-Prot, BRENDA, CAZy (as made available by dbCAN), BioLiP, CharProtDB, MetaCyc, EcoCyc, TCDB, REBASE, the Fitness Browser, and a subset of the European Nucleotide Archive with the /experiment tag. 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.

PaperBLAST also incorporates manually-curated protein functions:

Except for GeneRIF and ENA, the curated entries include a short curated description of the protein's function. For entries from BioLiP, the protein's function may not be known beyond binding to the ligand. Many of these entries also link to articles in PubMed.

For more information see the PaperBLAST paper (mSystems 2017) or the code. You can download PaperBLAST's database here.

Changes to PaperBLAST since the paper was written:

Many of these changes are described in Interactive tools for functional annotation of bacterial genomes.


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

Many important articles are missing from PaperBLAST, either because the article's full text is not in EuropePMC (as for many older articles), or because the paper does not mention a protein identifier such as a locus tag, 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 to 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.


PaperBLAST: Text-mining papers for information about homologs.
M. N. Price and A. P. Arkin (2017). mSystems, 10.1128/mSystems.00039-17.

Europe PMC in 2017.
M. Levchenko et al (2017). Nucleic Acids Research, 10.1093/nar/gkx1005.

Gene indexing: characterization and analysis of NLM's GeneRIFs.
J. A. Mitchell et al (2003). AMIA Annu Symp Proc 2003:460-464.

UniProt: the universal protein knowledgebase.
The UniProt Consortium (2016). Nucleic Acids Research, 10.1093/nar/gkw1099.

BRENDA in 2017: new perspectives and new tools in BRENDA.
S. Placzek et al (2017). Nucleic Acids Research, 10.1093/nar/gkw952.

The EcoCyc database: reflecting new knowledge about Escherichia coli K-12.
I. M. Keeseler et al (2016). Nucleic Acids Research, 10.1093/nar/gkw1003.

The MetaCyc database of metabolic pathways and enzymes.
R. Caspi et al (2018). Nucleic Acids Research, 10.1093/nar/gkx935.

CharProtDB: a database of experimentally characterized protein annotations.
R. Madupu et al (2012). Nucleic Acids Research, 10.1093/nar/gkr1133.

The carbohydrate-active enzymes database (CAZy) in 2013.
V. Lombard et al (2014). Nucleic Acids Research, 10.1093/nar/gkt1178.

The Transporter Classification Database (TCDB): recent advances
M. H. Saier, Jr. et al (2016). Nucleic Acids Research, 10.1093/nar/gkv1103.

REBASE - a database for DNA restriction and modification: enzymes, genes and genomes.
R. J. Roberts et al (2015). Nucleic Acids Research, 10.1093/nar/gku1046.

Deep annotation of protein function across diverse bacteria from mutant phenotypes.
M. N. Price et al (2016). bioRxiv, 10.1101/072470.

by Morgan Price, Arkin group
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory