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What is the Expect (E) value?

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What is the Expect (E) value?

The Expect value (E) is a parameter that describes the number of hits one can "expect" to see just by chance when searching a database of a particular size. It decreases exponentially with the Score (S) that is assigned to a match between two sequences. Essentially, the E value describes the random background noise that exists for matches between sequences. For example, an E value of 1 assigned to a hit can be interpreted as meaning that in a database of the current size one might expect to see 1 match with a similar score simply by chance. This means that the lower the E-value, or the closer it is to "0" the more "significant" the match is. However, keep in mind that searches with short sequences, can be virtually indentical and have relatively high EValue. This is because the calculation of the E-value also takes into account the length of the Query sequence. This is because shorter sequences have a high probability of occurring in the database purely by chance. For more details please see the calculations in the BLAST Course.

The Expect value can also be used as a convenient way to create a significance threshold for reporting results. You can change the Expect value threshold on most main BLAST search pages. When the Expect value is increased from the default value of 10, a larger list with more low-scoring hits can be reported.

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