TIGRFAMs, available online at http://www.jcvi.org/tigrfams is a database of protein family definitions. Each entry features a seed alignment of trusted representative sequences, a hidden Markov model (HMM) built from that alignment, cutoff scores that let automated annotation pipelines decide which proteins are members, and annotations for transfer onto member proteins. Most TIGRFAMs models are designated equivalog, meaning they assign a specific name to proteins conserved in function from a common ancestral sequence. Models describing more functionally heterogeneous families are designated subfamily or domain, and assign less specific but more widely applicable annotations. The Genome Properties database, available at http://www.jcvi.org/genome-properties, specifies how computed evidence, including TIGRFAMs HMM results, should be used to judge whether an enzymatic pathway, a protein complex or another type of molecular subsystem is encoded in a genome. TIGRFAMs and Genome Properties content are developed in concert because subsystems reconstruction for large numbers of genomes guides selection of seed alignment sequences and cutoff values during protein family construction. Both databases specialize heavily in bacterial and archaeal subsystems. At present, 4284 models appear in TIGRFAMs, while 628 systems are described by Genome Properties. Content derives both from subsystem discovery work and from biocuration of the scientific literature. © The Author(s) 2012.