In biology, the term sequence analysis refers to the process of subjecting a DNA, RNA or peptide sequence to any of a wide range of analytical methods to understand its features, function, structure or evolution. Methodologies used includes sequence alignment, searches against biological databases, or other bioinformatics methods.
Since the development of methods of high-throughput production of gene and protein sequences, the rate of addition of new sequences to the databases increased exponentially. Such a collection of sequences does not, by itself, increase the scientist's understanding of the biology of organisms. However, comparing these new sequences to those with known functions is a key way of understanding the biology of an organism from which the new sequence comes. Thus, sequence analysis can be used to assign function to genes and proteins by the study of the similarities between the compared sequences. Nowadays there are many tools and techniques that provide the sequence comparisons (sequence alignment) and analyze the alignment product to understand its biology.
Sequence analysis in molecular biology includes a very wide range of relevant topics:
The comparison of sequences in order to find similarity often to infer if they are related (homologous)
Identification of intrinsic features of the sequence such as active sites, post translational modification sites, gene-structures, reading frames, distributions of introns and exons and regulatory elements
Identification of sequence differences and variations such as point mutations and single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) in order to get the genetic marker.
Revealing the evolution and genetic diversity of sequences and organisms
Identification of molecular structure from sequence alone
In chemistry, sequence analysis comprises techniques used to do determine the sequence of a polymer formed of several monomers. In molecular biology and genetics, the same process is called simply "sequencing".