Secondary structure prediction is a crucial task for understanding the variety of protein structures and performed biological functions. Prediction of secondary structures for new proteins using their amino acid sequences is of fundamental importance in bioinformatics. We propose a novel technique to predict protein secondary structures based on position-specific scoring matrices (PSSMs) and physico-chemical properties of amino acids. It is a two stage approach involving multiclass support vector machines (SVMs) as classifiers for three different structural conformations, viz., helix, sheet and coil. In the first stage, PSSMs obtained from PSI-BLAST and five specially selected physicochemical properties of amino acids are fed into SVMs as features for sequence-to-structure prediction. Confidence values for forming helix, sheet and coil that are obtained from the first stage SVM are then used in the second stage SVM for performing structure-to-structure prediction. The two-stage cascaded classifiers (PSP_MCSVM) are trained with proteins from RS126 dataset. The classifiers are finally tested on target proteins of critical assessment of protein structure prediction experiment-9 (CASP9). PSP_MCSVM with brainstorming consensus procedure performs better than the prediction servers like Predator, DSC, SIMPA96, for randomly selected proteins from CASP9 targets. The overall performance is found to be comparable with the current state-of-the art. PSP_MCSVM source code, train-test datasets and supplementary files are available freely in public domain at: http://sysbio.icm.edu.pl/secstruct and http://code.google.com/p/cmater-bioinfo
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