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The content of this page is based on information retrieved from TargetP website on December 28, 2010. For more details and updates consult the original documentation. All code snippets on this page are shell commands, and have been successfully tested on the Linux server.

TargetP is a tool for predicting subcellular location of eukaryotic proteins. The location assignment is based on the predicted presence of any of the N-terminal presequences: chloroplast transit peptide (cTP), mitochondrial targeting peptide (mTP) or secretory pathway signal peptide (SP).


Online use

TargetP is publicly available for server-side execution through its website.

Offline use

TargetP is available as a standalone tool for academic users only. Other users are requested to contact CBS Software Package Manager at


To obtain the tool, one must fill an online form. The information required includes:

  • the target platform (Unix-based, including Linux);
  • the user's name, position, email, and affiliation;
  • acceptance of the terms and conditions.

Upon submission of the form, the tool is sent to the provided email address. (There seems to be no way to actually download the tool from the website, so no link is provided here.) The tool is sent as a zipped tar archive of size under 1 MB.

The distribution archive obtained on December 28, 2010 can be found in the attachments to this page.


The installation procedure consists of:

  • unpacking the archive, using the command line tools gzip and tar;
  • editing a bunch of settings within the executable shell script;
  • manually moving files into their destination directories.

There is no automated configuration and installation procedure (neither configure nor makefile are included); there is in fact no compilation involved, the tool is provided as a few precompiled binaries and a collection of Perl and Awk scripts, all called via a customizable shell script.

The following is a brief summary of the installation procedure used to setup targetp on xchel. Consult the readme file included in the package (also available online) for more details.


  • targetp-1.1b.Linux.tar.Z should be replaced with the actual name of the received file.
  • You may want to use $(tempfile) to generate a temporary file name; xchel does not provide tempfile, hence temp.$$ is used here.


TargetP has two types of dependencies: those assumed to be pre-installed on the installation platform, and those obtainable from the same source as TargetP.

According to the distributed readme file, the former dependencies include uname, paste, echo, perl, awk, and sh. The first three are regular components of GNU coreutils. The other three are are also typical components found on Unix platforms. No requirement is specified as to the version of any of the above.

The latter, optional dependencies are the programs chlorop and signalp, obtainable from the developers the same way as TargetP. Both should be installed in the directory referred to by $BASE above. (Alternatively, the procedure should be adapted accordingly to a different choice. See the corresponding readme files for details.) The distribution archives for both chlorop and signalp, obtained on December 28, 2010 can be found in the attachments to this page.


The explicit version number of the archive obtained on December 28, 2010 and used for the purpose of integration into iPlant CI is 1.1; targetp, the main shell script lists 2001 as the most recent development date for that version number. However, other files in the archive bear dates spanning the years 2001-2007, and it's rather difficult to judge whether any significant modifications to the program as a whole were made since the release of version 1.1 in 2001. When called with the 'print version' parameter -v, targetp responds with targetp v1.1b, March 2006. It appears safe to assume that the developers did not put much attention to coherent versioning.


The following usage description is based on the available documentation and some preliminary testing. Please consult the documentation for further details.

Command line invocation

The general form of TargetP command line invocation is:

where parameters is a sequence of obligatory and optional parameters, and input is a sequence of input file names.


For the current purposes, a selection of parameters have been included in the table below. For more details and further parameters, consult the TargetP manual page.

actual command-line parameter

name and brief description of the parameter


default value

text, number, or name of file

description of validation rules


use the plant version



none; -P is a flag parameter

According to the documentation, either -P (for plants) or -N (for non-plants) must be specified. In fact, if none is specified, TargetP acts as if -N were given.





real number in the range (0.0, 1.0]

"In order to increase the specificity of cTP prediction, use Pcut as a cutoff for predicting cTP: if the winning score is the chloroplast (cTP) score, specifying Pcut means that the score also has to be above that value; if not, the sequence will be left unpredicted, and an asterisk (star) will be output in the Loc column." Values lower than or equal to 0.0 give output as if no -p was specified; values greater than 1.0 give output as for 1.0.





real number in the range (0.0, 1.0]

As above, but for mTP prediction.





real number in the range (0.0, 1.0]

As above, but for SP prediction.





none; -h is a flag parameter

Display command line syntax and exit.





none; -v is a flag parameter

Display version info and exit.


TargetP accepts one or more input files which have to contain protein sequences in the standard FASTA format. Documentation for the online service states:

... there may be not more than 2,000 sequences and 200,000 amino acids in one submission. The maximal allowed sequence length is 4000 amino acids.

Documentation for the offline tool does not mention such constraints. However, there seem to be limitations here too, as the tool produces apparently wrong output (with no complaint) if sufficiently large input is used. (It remains to establish whether the limitations are as for the online tool or are different.)


For the current purposes, TargetP was tested with two FASTA files obtained from UniProt on December 29, 2010. The content of one of them represents 41 reviewed mitochondrial transmembrane transporter proteins in A. thaliana. The content of the other represents 58 reviewed membrane signal transmission proteins, also from A. thaliana. For the full content, see the attached files (mtt.fasta and mst.fasta, respectively) or run a curl or wget job (the query URLs are in the attached files mtt.url and mst.url, respectively).

It should be noted that the predictions from TargetP are neither complete nor entirely in agreement with the actual annotation of the proteins. (Please read the caveats section in the manual for comments on possible sources of inaccuracy; the original publications are further sources of insight.)


Locating proteins in the cell using TargetP, SignalP, and related tools
Olof Emanuelsson, Søren Brunak, Gunnar von Heijne, Henrik Nielsen
Nature Protocols 2, 953-971 (2007).
PMID:17446895 | DOI:10.1038/nprot.2007.131

Predicting subcellular localization of proteins based on their N-terminal amino acid sequence.
Olof Emanuelsson, Henrik Nielsen, Søren Brunak and Gunnar von Heijne.
J. Mol. Biol., 300: 1005-1016, 2000.
PMID:10891285 | DOI:10.1006/jmbi.2000.3903

ChloroP, a neural network-based method for predicting chloroplast transit peptides and their cleavage sites.
Emanuelsson O, Nielsen H, von Heijne G
Protein Science., 8, 978-984, 1999

Identification of prokaryotic and eukaryotic signal peptides and prediction of their cleavage sites.
Henrik Nielsen, Jacob Engelbrecht, Søren Brunak and Gunnar von Heijne.
Protein Engineering, 10:1-6, 1997.