High throughput techniques have generated a huge set of biological data, which are deposited in various databases. Efficient exploitation of these databases is often hampered by a lack of appropriate tools, which allow easy and reliable identification of genes that miss functional characterization but are correlated with specific biological conditions (e.g. organotypic expression).
We have developed a simple algorithm (DGSA = Database-dependent Gene Selection and Analysis) to identify genes with unknown functions involved in organ development concentrating on the heart. Using our approach, we identified a large number of yet uncharacterized genes, which are expressed during heart development. An initial functional characterization of genes by loss-of-function analysis employing morpholino injections into zebrafish embryos disclosed severe developmental defects indicating a decisive function of selected genes for developmental processes.
We conclude that DGSA is a versatile tool for database mining allowing efficient selection of uncharacterized genes for functional analysis.