Hundreds of protein crystal structures exist for proteins whose function cannot be confidently determined from sequence similarity. Surflex-PSIM, a previously reported surface-based protein similarity algorithm, provides an alternative method for hypothesizing function for such proteins. The method now supports fully automatic binding site detection and is fast enough to screen comprehensive databases of protein binding sites. The binding site detection methodology was validated on apo/holo cognate protein pairs, correctly identifying 91% of ligand binding sites in holo structures and 88% in apo structures where corresponding sites existed. For correctly detected apo binding sites, the cognate holo site was the most similar binding site 87% of the time. PSIM was used to screen a set of proteins that had poorly characterized functions at the time of crystallization, but were later biochemically annotated. Using a fully automated protocol, this set of 8 proteins was screened against ∼60,000 ligand binding sites from the PDB. PSIM correctly identified functional matches that predated query protein biochemical annotation for five out of the eight query proteins. A panel of 12 currently unannotated proteins was also screened, resulting in a large number of statistically significant binding site matches, some of which suggest likely functions for the podorly characterized proteins. Proteins 2014; 82:679–694. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.