With an extensive knowledge of the gene content of mammalian genomes becoming a reality through the completion of a number of genome sequences including mouse (1
), focus has shifted to the study of gene function in these organisms. The aim in this postgenomic era is to link genomic and phenotype information systematically to allow a deeper understanding of the processes leading from genomic changes to altered phenotype and disease. Mouse mutants represent one of the most powerful tools in this endeavour (2
). To facilitate these aims, a number of projects are underway ranging from the production of large collections of mouse point and knockout mutants (3
) through to the establishment of large-scale phenotype characterization projects that aim to provide a phenotype assessment of these lines (5
). The ultimate challenge will be to interpret this data using computational methods.
A number of critical steps must be achieved for the comprehensive analysis and interpretation of this data to be possible. First, phenotype data on both normal inbred strains and mutant strains must be collected in community databases with open access. Second, the phenotype data must be generated using comprehensive phenotyping platforms that provide standardized methods, so that the results can be compared between laboratories and across time (5
). Third, structured descriptions of the phenotypes must be used to allow the data to be interpreted in a consistent manner (6–8
EMPReSS (European Mouse Phenotyping Resource for Standardized Screens) (5
) is the product of Eumorphia (http://www.eumorphia.org
), the largest programme to date to develop standardized phenotyping protocols. EMPReSS is a comprehensive database of validated Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for screens to determine the phenotype of a mouse. It incorporates 96 SOPs that cover all of the main body systems including: clinical chemistry, hormonal and metabolic systems, cardiovascular, allergy and infection, sensory function, neurological and behavioural function, cancer, and bone and cartilage systems. In addition, there are generic SOPs for histology, necropsy, pathology and gene expression. EMPReSS is a platform of individual tests, but these can also be grouped together into phenotyping pipelines.
) was instigated as an online mouse phenotyping resource to store baseline data generated from the application of EMPReSS SOPs. Data was collected by individual work packages in the Eumorphia project for purposes of SOP validation and to provide baseline information against which phenotypes of experimental animals could be compared. It currently includes data from 24 EMPReSS SOPs, representing the measurement of 132 parameters across four inbred mouse strains in up to four different laboratories.