Global coevolutionary models of protein families have become increasingly popular due to their capacity to predict residue–residue contacts from sequence information, but also to predict fitness effects of amino acid substitutions or to infer protein–protein interactions. The central idea in these models is to construct a probability distribution, a Potts model, that reproduces single and pairwise frequencies of amino acids found in natural sequences of the protein family. This approach treats sequences from the family as independent samples, completely ignoring phylogenetic relations between them. This simplification is known to lead to potentially biased estimates of the parameters of the model, decreasing their biological relevance. Current workarounds for this problem, such as reweighting sequences, are poorly understood and not principled. Here, we propose an inference scheme that takes the phylogeny of a protein family into account in order to correct biases in estimating the frequencies of amino acids. Using artificial data, we show that a Potts model inferred using these corrected frequencies performs better in predicting contacts and fitness effect of mutations. First, only partially successful tests on real protein data are presented, too.
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