ResidueFinder: extracting individual residue mentions from protein literature

Ton E. Becker, Eric Jakobsson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The revolution in molecular biology has shown how protein function and structure are based on specific sequences of amino acids. Thus, an important feature in many papers is the mention of the significance of individual amino acids in the context of the entire sequence of the protein. MutationFinder is a widely used program for finding mentions of specific mutations in texts. We report on augmenting the positive attributes of MutationFinder with a more inclusive regular expression list to create ResidueFinder, which finds mentions of native amino acids as well as mutations. We also consider parameter options for both ResidueFinder and MutationFinder to explore trade-offs between precision, recall, and computational efficiency. We test our methods and software in full text as well as abstracts. Results: We find there is much more variety of formats for mentioning residues in the entire text of papers than in abstracts alone. Failure to take these multiple formats into account results in many false negatives in the program. Since MutationFinder, like several other programs, was primarily tested on abstracts, we found it necessary to build an expanded regular expression list to achieve acceptable recall in full text searches. We also discovered a number of artifacts arising from PDF to text conversion, which we wrote elements in the regular expression library to address. Taking into account those factors resulted in high recall on randomly selected primary research articles. We also developed a streamlined regular expression (called “cut”) which enables a several hundredfold speedup in both MutationFinder and ResidueFinder with only a modest compromise of recall. All regular expressions were tested using expanded F-measure statistics, i.e., we compute Fβ for various values of where the larger the value of β the more recall is weighted, the smaller the value of β the more precision is weighted. Conclusions: ResidueFinder is a simple, effective, and efficient program for finding individual residue mentions in primary literature starting with text files, implemented in Python, and available in The most computationally efficient versions of ResidueFinder could enable creation and maintenance of a database of residue mentions encompassing all articles in PubMed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number14
JournalJournal of Biomedical Semantics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Amino Acid Residue
  • Bioinformatics
  • Mutation
  • MutationFinder
  • Natural Language Processing
  • Point Mutation
  • Text Mining

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Health Informatics
  • Computer Networks and Communications


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