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1.  A relation based measure of semantic similarity for Gene Ontology annotations 
BMC Bioinformatics  2008;9:468.
Background
Various measures of semantic similarity of terms in bio-ontologies such as the Gene Ontology (GO) have been used to compare gene products. Such measures of similarity have been used to annotate uncharacterized gene products and group gene products into functional groups. There are various ways to measure semantic similarity, either using the topological structure of the ontology, the instances (gene products) associated with terms or a mixture of both. We focus on an instance level definition of semantic similarity while using the information contained in the ontology, both in the graphical structure of the ontology and the semantics of relations between terms, to provide constraints on our instance level description.
Semantic similarity of terms is extended to annotations by various approaches, either though aggregation operations such as min, max and average or through an extrapolative method. These approaches introduce assumptions about how semantic similarity of terms relates to the semantic similarity of annotations that do not necessarily reflect how terms relate to each other.
Results
We exploit the semantics of relations in the GO to construct an algorithm called SSA that provides the basis of a framework that naturally extends instance based methods of semantic similarity of terms, such as Resnik's measure, to describing annotations and not just terms. Our measure attempts to correctly interpret how terms combine via their relationships in the ontological hierarchy. SSA uses these relationships to identify the most specific common ancestors between terms. We outline the set of cases in which terms can combine and associate partial order constraints with each case that order the specificity of terms. These cases form the basis for the SSA algorithm. The set of associated constraints also provide a set of principles that any improvement on our method should seek to satisfy.
Conclusion
We derive a measure of semantic similarity between annotations that exploits all available information without introducing assumptions about the nature of the ontology or data. We preserve the principles underlying instance based methods of semantic similarity of terms at the annotation level. As a result our measure better describes the information contained in annotations associated with gene products and as a result is better suited to characterizing and classifying gene products through their annotations.
doi:10.1186/1471-2105-9-468
PMCID: PMC2655092  PMID: 18983678
2.  Large-scale Gene Ontology analysis of plant transcriptome-derived sequences retrieved by AFLP technology 
BMC Genomics  2008;9:347.
Background
After 10-year-use of AFLP (Amplified Fragment Length Polymorphism) technology for DNA fingerprinting and mRNA profiling, large repertories of genome- and transcriptome-derived sequences are available in public databases for model, crop and tree species. AFLP marker systems have been and are being extensively exploited for genome scanning and gene mapping, as well as cDNA-AFLP for transcriptome profiling and differentially expressed gene cloning. The evaluation, annotation and classification of genomic markers and expressed transcripts would be of great utility for both functional genomics and systems biology research in plants. This may be achieved by means of the Gene Ontology (GO), consisting in three structured vocabularies (i.e. ontologies) describing genes, transcripts and proteins of any organism in terms of their associated cellular component, biological process and molecular function in a species-independent manner. In this paper, the functional annotation of about 8,000 AFLP-derived ESTs retrieved in the NCBI databases was carried out by using GO terminology.
Results
Descriptive statistics on the type, size and nature of gene sequences obtained by means of AFLP technology were calculated. The gene products associated with mRNA transcripts were then classified according to the three main GO vocabularies. A comparison of the functional content of cDNA-AFLP records was also performed by splitting the sequence dataset into monocots and dicots and by comparing them to all annotated ESTs of Arabidopsis and rice, respectively. On the whole, the statistical parameters adopted for the in silico AFLP-derived transcriptome-anchored sequence analysis proved to be critical for obtaining reliable GO results. Such an exhaustive annotation may offer a suitable platform for functional genomics, particularly useful in non-model species.
Conclusion
Reliable GO annotations of AFLP-derived sequences can be gathered through the optimization of the experimental steps and the statistical parameters adopted. The Blast2GO software was shown to represent a comprehensive bioinformatics solution for an annotation-based functional analysis. According to the whole set of GO annotations, the AFLP technology generates thorough information for angiosperm gene products and shares common features across angiosperm species and families. The utility of this technology for structural and functional genomics in plants can be implemented by serial annotation analyses of genome-anchored fragments and organ/tissue-specific repertories of transcriptome-derived fragments.
doi:10.1186/1471-2164-9-347
PMCID: PMC2515857  PMID: 18652646
3.  The Protein Feature Ontology: A Tool for the Unification of Protein Annotations 
Bioinformatics (Oxford, England)  2008;24(23):2767-2772.
The advent of sequencing and structural genomics projects has provided a dramatic boost in the number of protein structures and sequences. Due to the high-throughput nature of these projects, many of the molecules are uncharacterised and their functions unknown. This, in turn, has led to the need for a greater number and diversity of tools and databases providing annotation through transfer based on homology and prediction methods. Though many such tools to annotate protein sequence and structure exist, they are spread throughout the world, often with dedicated individual web pages. This situation does not provide a consensus view of the data and hinders comparison between methods. Integration of these methods is needed. So far this has not been possible since there was no common vocabulary available that could be used as a standard language. A variety of terms could be used to describe any particular feature ranging from different spellings to completely different terms. The Protein Feature Ontology (http://www.ebi.ac.uk/ontology-lookup/browse.do?ontName=BS) is a structured controlled vocabulary for features of a protein sequence or structure. It provides a common language for tools and methods to use, so that integration and comparison of their annotations is possible. The Protein Feature Ontology comprises approximately 100 positional terms (located in a particular region of the sequence), which have been integrated into the Sequence Ontology (SO). 40 non-positional terms which describe general protein properties have also been defined and, in addition, post-translational modifications are described by using an already existing ontology, the Protein Modification Ontology (MOD). The Protein Feature Ontology has been used by the BioSapiens Network of Excellence, a consortium comprising 19 partner sites in 14 European countries generating over 150 distinct annotation types for protein sequences and structures.
doi:10.1093/bioinformatics/btn528
PMCID: PMC2912506  PMID: 18936051
4.  New concepts for building vocabulary for cell image ontologies 
BMC Bioinformatics  2011;12:487.
Background
There are significant challenges associated with the building of ontologies for cell biology experiments including the large numbers of terms and their synonyms. These challenges make it difficult to simultaneously query data from multiple experiments or ontologies. If vocabulary terms were consistently used and reused across and within ontologies, queries would be possible through shared terms. One approach to achieving this is to strictly control the terms used in ontologies in the form of a pre-defined schema, but this approach limits the individual researcher's ability to create new terms when needed to describe new experiments.
Results
Here, we propose the use of a limited number of highly reusable common root terms, and rules for an experimentalist to locally expand terms by adding more specific terms under more general root terms to form specific new vocabulary hierarchies that can be used to build ontologies. We illustrate the application of the method to build vocabularies and a prototype database for cell images that uses a visual data-tree of terms to facilitate sophisticated queries based on a experimental parameters. We demonstrate how the terminology might be extended by adding new vocabulary terms into the hierarchy of terms in an evolving process. In this approach, image data and metadata are handled separately, so we also describe a robust file-naming scheme to unambiguously identify image and other files associated with each metadata value. The prototype database http://sbd.nist.gov/ consists of more than 2000 images of cells and benchmark materials, and 163 metadata terms that describe experimental details, including many details about cell culture and handling. Image files of interest can be retrieved, and their data can be compared, by choosing one or more relevant metadata values as search terms. Metadata values for any dataset can be compared with corresponding values of another dataset through logical operations.
Conclusions
Organizing metadata for cell imaging experiments under a framework of rules that include highly reused root terms will facilitate the addition of new terms into a vocabulary hierarchy and encourage the reuse of terms. These vocabulary hierarchies can be converted into XML schema or RDF graphs for displaying and querying, but this is not necessary for using it to annotate cell images. Vocabulary data trees from multiple experiments or laboratories can be aligned at the root terms to facilitate query development. This approach of developing vocabularies is compatible with the major advances in database technology and could be used for building the Semantic Web.
doi:10.1186/1471-2105-12-487
PMCID: PMC3293096  PMID: 22188658
5.  The Drosophila anatomy ontology 
Background
Anatomy ontologies are query-able classifications of anatomical structures. They provide a widely-used means for standardising the annotation of phenotypes and expression in both human-readable and programmatically accessible forms. They are also frequently used to group annotations in biologically meaningful ways. Accurate annotation requires clear textual definitions for terms, ideally accompanied by images. Accurate grouping and fruitful programmatic usage requires high-quality formal definitions that can be used to automate classification and check for errors. The Drosophila anatomy ontology (DAO) consists of over 8000 classes with broad coverage of Drosophila anatomy. It has been used extensively for annotation by a range of resources, but until recently it was poorly formalised and had few textual definitions.
Results
We have transformed the DAO into an ontology rich in formal and textual definitions in which the majority of classifications are automated and extensive error checking ensures quality. Here we present an overview of the content of the DAO, the patterns used in its formalisation, and the various uses it has been put to.
Conclusions
As a result of the work described here, the DAO provides a high-quality, queryable reference for the wild-type anatomy of Drosophila melanogaster and a set of terms to annotate data related to that anatomy. Extensive, well referenced textual definitions make it both a reliable and useful reference and ensure accurate use in annotation. Wide use of formal axioms allows a large proportion of classification to be automated and the use of consistency checking to eliminate errors. This increased formalisation has resulted in significant improvements to the completeness and accuracy of classification. The broad use of both formal and informal definitions make further development of the ontology sustainable and scalable. The patterns of formalisation used in the DAO are likely to be useful to developers of other anatomy ontologies.
doi:10.1186/2041-1480-4-32
PMCID: PMC4015547  PMID: 24139062
Drosophila; Anatomy; Ontology; OWL; OBO; Gene Ontology; FlyBase; Description logic
6.  Applying Support Vector Machines for Gene ontology based gene function prediction 
BMC Bioinformatics  2004;5:116.
Background
The current progress in sequencing projects calls for rapid, reliable and accurate function assignments of gene products. A variety of methods has been designed to annotate sequences on a large scale. However, these methods can either only be applied for specific subsets, or their results are not formalised, or they do not provide precise confidence estimates for their predictions.
Results
We have developed a large-scale annotation system that tackles all of these shortcomings. In our approach, annotation was provided through Gene Ontology terms by applying multiple Support Vector Machines (SVM) for the classification of correct and false predictions. The general performance of the system was benchmarked with a large dataset. An organism-wise cross-validation was performed to define confidence estimates, resulting in an average precision of 80% for 74% of all test sequences. The validation results show that the prediction performance was organism-independent and could reproduce the annotation of other automated systems as well as high-quality manual annotations. We applied our trained classification system to Xenopus laevis sequences, yielding functional annotation for more than half of the known expressed genome. Compared to the currently available annotation, we provided more than twice the number of contigs with good quality annotation, and additionally we assigned a confidence value to each predicted GO term.
Conclusions
We present a complete automated annotation system that overcomes many of the usual problems by applying a controlled vocabulary of Gene Ontology and an established classification method on large and well-described sequence data sets. In a case study, the function for Xenopus laevis contig sequences was predicted and the results are publicly available at .
doi:10.1186/1471-2105-5-116
PMCID: PMC517617  PMID: 15333146
7.  The Gene Ontology's Reference Genome Project: A Unified Framework for Functional Annotation across Species 
PLoS Computational Biology  2009;5(7):e1000431.
The Gene Ontology (GO) is a collaborative effort that provides structured vocabularies for annotating the molecular function, biological role, and cellular location of gene products in a highly systematic way and in a species-neutral manner with the aim of unifying the representation of gene function across different organisms. Each contributing member of the GO Consortium independently associates GO terms to gene products from the organism(s) they are annotating. Here we introduce the Reference Genome project, which brings together those independent efforts into a unified framework based on the evolutionary relationships between genes in these different organisms. The Reference Genome project has two primary goals: to increase the depth and breadth of annotations for genes in each of the organisms in the project, and to create data sets and tools that enable other genome annotation efforts to infer GO annotations for homologous genes in their organisms. In addition, the project has several important incidental benefits, such as increasing annotation consistency across genome databases, and providing important improvements to the GO's logical structure and biological content.
Author Summary
Biological research is increasingly dependent on the availability of well-structured representations of biological data with detailed, accurate descriptions provided by the curators of the data repositories. The Reference Genome project's goal is to provide comprehensive functional annotation for the genomes of human as well as eleven organisms that are important models in biomedical research. To achieve this, we have developed an approach that superposes experimentally-based annotations onto the leaves of phylogenetic trees and then we manually annotate the function of the common ancestors, predicated on the assumption that the ancestors possessed the experimentally determined functions that are held in common at these leaves, and that these functions are likely to be conserved in all other descendents of each family.
doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000431
PMCID: PMC2699109  PMID: 19578431
8.  Heterochromatic sequences in a Drosophila whole-genome shotgun assembly 
Genome Biology  2002;3(12):research0085.1-85.16.
Annotation of an improved whole-genome shotgun assembly of the Drosophila melanogaster genome predicted 297 protein-coding genes and six non-protein-coding genes, including known heterochromatic genes, and regions of similarity to known transposable elements. Fluorescence in situ hybridization was used to correlate the genomic sequence with the cytogenetic map; the annotated euchromatic sequence extends into the centric heterochromatin on each chromosome arm.
Background
Most eukaryotic genomes include a substantial repeat-rich fraction termed heterochromatin, which is concentrated in centric and telomeric regions. The repetitive nature of heterochromatic sequence makes it difficult to assemble and analyze. To better understand the heterochromatic component of the Drosophila melanogaster genome, we characterized and annotated portions of a whole-genome shotgun sequence assembly.
Results
WGS3, an improved whole-genome shotgun assembly, includes 20.7 Mb of draft-quality sequence not represented in the Release 3 sequence spanning the euchromatin. We annotated this sequence using the methods employed in the re-annotation of the Release 3 euchromatic sequence. This analysis predicted 297 protein-coding genes and six non-protein-coding genes, including known heterochromatic genes, and regions of similarity to known transposable elements. Bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC)-based fluorescence in situ hybridization analysis was used to correlate the genomic sequence with the cytogenetic map in order to refine the genomic definition of the centric heterochromatin; on the basis of our cytological definition, the annotated Release 3 euchromatic sequence extends into the centric heterochromatin on each chromosome arm.
Conclusions
Whole-genome shotgun assembly produced a reliable draft-quality sequence of a significant part of the Drosophila heterochromatin. Annotation of this sequence defined the intron-exon structures of 30 known protein-coding genes and 267 protein-coding gene models. The cytogenetic mapping suggests that an additional 150 predicted genes are located in heterochromatin at the base of the Release 3 euchromatic sequence. Our analysis suggests strategies for improving the sequence and annotation of the heterochromatic portions of the Drosophila and other complex genomes.
doi:10.1186/gb-2002-3-12-research0085
PMCID: PMC151187  PMID: 12537574
9.  The Drosophila phenotype ontology 
Background
Phenotype ontologies are queryable classifications of phenotypes. They provide a widely-used means for annotating phenotypes in a form that is human-readable, programatically accessible and that can be used to group annotations in biologically meaningful ways. Accurate manual annotation requires clear textual definitions for terms. Accurate grouping and fruitful programatic usage require high-quality formal definitions that can be used to automate classification. The Drosophila phenotype ontology (DPO) has been used to annotate over 159,000 phenotypes in FlyBase to date, but until recently lacked textual or formal definitions.
Results
We have composed textual definitions for all DPO terms and formal definitions for 77% of them. Formal definitions reference terms from a range of widely-used ontologies including the Phenotype and Trait Ontology (PATO), the Gene Ontology (GO) and the Cell Ontology (CL). We also describe a generally applicable system, devised for the DPO, for recording and reasoning about the timing of death in populations. As a result of the new formalisations, 85% of classifications in the DPO are now inferred rather than asserted, with much of this classification leveraging the structure of the GO. This work has significantly improved the accuracy and completeness of classification and made further development of the DPO more sustainable.
Conclusions
The DPO provides a set of well-defined terms for annotating Drosophila phenotypes and for grouping and querying the resulting annotation sets in biologically meaningful ways. Such queries have already resulted in successful function predictions from phenotype annotation. Moreover, such formalisations make extended queries possible, including cross-species queries via the external ontologies used in formal definitions. The DPO is openly available under an open source license in both OBO and OWL formats. There is good potential for it to be used more broadly by the Drosophila community, which may ultimately result in its extension to cover a broader range of phenotypes.
doi:10.1186/2041-1480-4-30
PMCID: PMC3816596  PMID: 24138933
Drosophila; Phenotype; Ontology; OWL; OBO; Gene ontology; FlyBase
10.  The neurological disease ontology 
Background
We are developing the Neurological Disease Ontology (ND) to provide a framework to enable representation of aspects of neurological diseases that are relevant to their treatment and study. ND is a representational tool that addresses the need for unambiguous annotation, storage, and retrieval of data associated with the treatment and study of neurological diseases. ND is being developed in compliance with the Open Biomedical Ontology Foundry principles and builds upon the paradigm established by the Ontology for General Medical Science (OGMS) for the representation of entities in the domain of disease and medical practice. Initial applications of ND will include the annotation and analysis of large data sets and patient records for Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and stroke.
Description
ND is implemented in OWL 2 and currently has more than 450 terms that refer to and describe various aspects of neurological diseases. ND directly imports the development version of OGMS, which uses BFO 2. Term development in ND has primarily extended the OGMS terms ‘disease’, ‘diagnosis’, ‘disease course’, and ‘disorder’. We have imported and utilize over 700 classes from related ontology efforts including the Foundational Model of Anatomy, Ontology for Biomedical Investigations, and Protein Ontology. ND terms are annotated with ontology metadata such as a label (term name), term editors, textual definition, definition source, curation status, and alternative terms (synonyms). Many terms have logical definitions in addition to these annotations. Current development has focused on the establishment of the upper-level structure of the ND hierarchy, as well as on the representation of Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and stroke. The ontology is available as a version-controlled file at http://code.google.com/p/neurological-disease-ontology along with a discussion list and an issue tracker.
Conclusion
ND seeks to provide a formal foundation for the representation of clinical and research data pertaining to neurological diseases. ND will enable its users to connect data in a robust way with related data that is annotated using other terminologies and ontologies in the biomedical domain.
doi:10.1186/2041-1480-4-42
PMCID: PMC4028878  PMID: 24314207
11.  Gene Ontology annotation of the rice blast fungus, Magnaporthe oryzae 
BMC Microbiology  2009;9(Suppl 1):S8.
Background
Magnaporthe oryzae, the causal agent of blast disease of rice, is the most destructive disease of rice worldwide. The genome of this fungal pathogen has been sequenced and an automated annotation has recently been updated to Version 6 . However, a comprehensive manual curation remains to be performed. Gene Ontology (GO) annotation is a valuable means of assigning functional information using standardized vocabulary. We report an overview of the GO annotation for Version 5 of M. oryzae genome assembly.
Methods
A similarity-based (i.e., computational) GO annotation with manual review was conducted, which was then integrated with a literature-based GO annotation with computational assistance. For similarity-based GO annotation a stringent reciprocal best hits method was used to identify similarity between predicted proteins of M. oryzae and GO proteins from multiple organisms with published associations to GO terms. Significant alignment pairs were manually reviewed. Functional assignments were further cross-validated with manually reviewed data, conserved domains, or data determined by wet lab experiments. Additionally, biological appropriateness of the functional assignments was manually checked.
Results
In total, 6,286 proteins received GO term assignment via the homology-based annotation, including 2,870 hypothetical proteins. Literature-based experimental evidence, such as microarray, MPSS, T-DNA insertion mutation, or gene knockout mutation, resulted in 2,810 proteins being annotated with GO terms. Of these, 1,673 proteins were annotated with new terms developed for Plant-Associated Microbe Gene Ontology (PAMGO). In addition, 67 experiment-determined secreted proteins were annotated with PAMGO terms. Integration of the two data sets resulted in 7,412 proteins (57%) being annotated with 1,957 distinct and specific GO terms. Unannotated proteins were assigned to the 3 root terms. The Version 5 GO annotation is publically queryable via the GO site . Additionally, the genome of M. oryzae is constantly being refined and updated as new information is incorporated. For the latest GO annotation of Version 6 genome, please visit our website . The preliminary GO annotation of Version 6 genome is placed at a local MySql database that is publically queryable via a user-friendly interface Adhoc Query System.
Conclusion
Our analysis provides comprehensive and robust GO annotations of the M. oryzae genome assemblies that will be solid foundations for further functional interrogation of M. oryzae.
doi:10.1186/1471-2180-9-S1-S8
PMCID: PMC2654668  PMID: 19278556
12.  Markov Chain Ontology Analysis (MCOA) 
BMC Bioinformatics  2012;13:23.
Background
Biomedical ontologies have become an increasingly critical lens through which researchers analyze the genomic, clinical and bibliographic data that fuels scientific research. Of particular relevance are methods, such as enrichment analysis, that quantify the importance of ontology classes relative to a collection of domain data. Current analytical techniques, however, remain limited in their ability to handle many important types of structural complexity encountered in real biological systems including class overlaps, continuously valued data, inter-instance relationships, non-hierarchical relationships between classes, semantic distance and sparse data.
Results
In this paper, we describe a methodology called Markov Chain Ontology Analysis (MCOA) and illustrate its use through a MCOA-based enrichment analysis application based on a generative model of gene activation. MCOA models the classes in an ontology, the instances from an associated dataset and all directional inter-class, class-to-instance and inter-instance relationships as a single finite ergodic Markov chain. The adjusted transition probability matrix for this Markov chain enables the calculation of eigenvector values that quantify the importance of each ontology class relative to other classes and the associated data set members. On both controlled Gene Ontology (GO) data sets created with Escherichia coli, Drosophila melanogaster and Homo sapiens annotations and real gene expression data extracted from the Gene Expression Omnibus (GEO), the MCOA enrichment analysis approach provides the best performance of comparable state-of-the-art methods.
Conclusion
A methodology based on Markov chain models and network analytic metrics can help detect the relevant signal within large, highly interdependent and noisy data sets and, for applications such as enrichment analysis, has been shown to generate superior performance on both real and simulated data relative to existing state-of-the-art approaches.
doi:10.1186/1471-2105-13-23
PMCID: PMC3329418  PMID: 22300537
13.  Understanding how and why the Gene Ontology and its annotations evolve: the GO within UniProt 
GigaScience  2014;3:4.
The Gene Ontology Consortium (GOC) is a major bioinformatics project that provides structured controlled vocabularies to classify gene product function and location. GOC members create annotations to gene products using the Gene Ontology (GO) vocabularies, thus providing an extensive, publicly available resource. The GO and its annotations to gene products are now an integral part of functional analysis, and statistical tests using GO data are becoming routine for researchers to include when publishing functional information. While many helpful articles about the GOC are available, there are certain updates to the ontology and annotation sets that sometimes go unobserved. Here we describe some of the ways in which GO can change that should be carefully considered by all users of GO as they may have a significant impact on the resulting gene product annotations, and therefore the functional description of the gene product, or the interpretation of analyses performed on GO datasets. GO annotations for gene products change for many reasons, and while these changes generally improve the accuracy of the representation of the underlying biology, they do not necessarily imply that previous annotations were incorrect. We additionally describe the quality assurance mechanisms we employ to improve the accuracy of annotations, which necessarily changes the composition of the annotation sets we provide. We use the Universal Protein Resource (UniProt) for illustrative purposes of how the GO Consortium, as a whole, manages these changes.
doi:10.1186/2047-217X-3-4
PMCID: PMC3995153  PMID: 24641996
Gene Ontology; Annotation; Function prediction; Misinterpretation
14.  The Teleost Anatomy Ontology: Anatomical Representation for the Genomics Age 
Systematic Biology  2010;59(4):369-383.
The rich knowledge of morphological variation among organisms reported in the systematic literature has remained in free-text format, impractical for use in large-scale synthetic phylogenetic work. This noncomputable format has also precluded linkage to the large knowledgebase of genomic, genetic, developmental, and phenotype data in model organism databases. We have undertaken an effort to prototype a curated, ontology-based evolutionary morphology database that maps to these genetic databases (http://kb.phenoscape.org) to facilitate investigation into the mechanistic basis and evolution of phenotypic diversity. Among the first requirements in establishing this database was the development of a multispecies anatomy ontology with the goal of capturing anatomical data in a systematic and computable manner. An ontology is a formal representation of a set of concepts with defined relationships between those concepts. Multispecies anatomy ontologies in particular are an efficient way to represent the diversity of morphological structures in a clade of organisms, but they present challenges in their development relative to single-species anatomy ontologies. Here, we describe the Teleost Anatomy Ontology (TAO), a multispecies anatomy ontology for teleost fishes derived from the Zebrafish Anatomical Ontology (ZFA) for the purpose of annotating varying morphological features across species. To facilitate interoperability with other anatomy ontologies, TAO uses the Common Anatomy Reference Ontology as a template for its upper level nodes, and TAO and ZFA are synchronized, with zebrafish terms specified as subtypes of teleost terms. We found that the details of ontology architecture have ramifications for querying, and we present general challenges in developing a multispecies anatomy ontology, including refinement of definitions, taxon-specific relationships among terms, and representation of taxonomically variable developmental pathways.
doi:10.1093/sysbio/syq013
PMCID: PMC2885267  PMID: 20547776
Bioinformatics; devo-evo; fish; morphology; ontology; Teleostei
15.  A guide to best practices for Gene Ontology (GO) manual annotation 
The Gene Ontology Consortium (GOC) is a community-based bioinformatics project that classifies gene product function through the use of structured controlled vocabularies. A fundamental application of the Gene Ontology (GO) is in the creation of gene product annotations, evidence-based associations between GO definitions and experimental or sequence-based analysis. Currently, the GOC disseminates 126 million annotations covering >374 000 species including all the kingdoms of life. This number includes two classes of GO annotations: those created manually by experienced biocurators reviewing the literature or by examination of biological data (1.1 million annotations covering 2226 species) and those generated computationally via automated methods. As manual annotations are often used to propagate functional predictions between related proteins within and between genomes, it is critical to provide accurate consistent manual annotations. Toward this goal, we present here the conventions defined by the GOC for the creation of manual annotation. This guide represents the best practices for manual annotation as established by the GOC project over the past 12 years. We hope this guide will encourage research communities to annotate gene products of their interest to enhance the corpus of GO annotations available to all.
Database URL: http://www.geneontology.org
doi:10.1093/database/bat054
PMCID: PMC3706743  PMID: 23842463
16.  The Gene Ontology (GO) project in 2006 
Nucleic Acids Research  2005;34(Database issue):D322-D326.
The Gene Ontology (GO) project () develops and uses a set of structured, controlled vocabularies for community use in annotating genes, gene products and sequences (also see ). The GO Consortium continues to improve to the vocabulary content, reflecting the impact of several novel mechanisms of incorporating community input. A growing number of model organism databases and genome annotation groups contribute annotation sets using GO terms to GO's public repository. Updates to the AmiGO browser have improved access to contributed genome annotations. As the GO project continues to grow, the use of the GO vocabularies is becoming more varied as well as more widespread. The GO project provides an ontological annotation system that enables biologists to infer knowledge from large amounts of data.
doi:10.1093/nar/gkj021
PMCID: PMC1347384  PMID: 16381878
17.  Sequence Ontology Annotation Guide 
This Sequence Ontology (SO) [13] aims to unify the way in which we describe sequence annotations, by providing a controlled vocabulary of terms and the relationships between them. Using SO terms to label the parts of sequence annotations greatly facilitates downstream analyses of their contents, as it ensures that annotations produced by different groups conform to a single standard. This greatly facilitates analyses of annotation contents and characteristics, e.g. comparisons of UTRs, alternative splicing, etc. Because SO also specifies the relationships between features, e.g. part_of, kind_of, annotations described with SO terms are also better substrates for validation and visualization software.
This document provides a step-by-step guide to producing a SO compliant file describing a sequence annotation. We illustrate this by using an annotated gene as an example. First we show where the terms needed to describe the gene's features are located in SO and their relationships to one another. We then show line by line how to format the file to construct a SO compliant annotation of this gene.
doi:10.1002/cfg.446
PMCID: PMC2447471  PMID: 18629179
18.  Automatic image analysis for gene expression patterns of fly embryos 
BMC Cell Biology  2007;8(Suppl 1):S7.
Background
Staining the mRNA of a gene via in situ hybridization (ISH) during the development of a D. melanogaster embryo delivers the detailed spatio-temporal pattern of expression of the gene. Many biological problems such as the detection of co-expressed genes, co-regulated genes, and transcription factor binding motifs rely heavily on the analyses of these image patterns. The increasing availability of ISH image data motivates the development of automated computational approaches to the analysis of gene expression patterns.
Results
We have developed algorithms and associated software that extracts a feature representation of a gene expression pattern from an ISH image, that clusters genes sharing the same spatio-temporal pattern of expression, that suggests transcription factor binding (TFB) site motifs for genes that appear to be co-regulated (based on the clustering), and that automatically identifies the anatomical regions that express a gene given a training set of annotations. In fact, we developed three different feature representations, based on Gaussian Mixture Models (GMM), Principal Component Analysis (PCA), and wavelet functions, each having different merits with respect to the tasks above. For clustering image patterns, we developed a minimum spanning tree method (MSTCUT), and for proposing TFB sites we used standard motif finders on clustered/co-expressed genes with the added twist of requiring conservation across the genomes of 8 related fly species. Lastly, we trained a suite of binary-classifiers, one for each anatomical annotation term in a controlled vocabulary or ontology that operate on the wavelet feature representation. We report the results of applying these methods to the Berkeley Drosophila Genome Project (BDGP) gene expression database.
Conclusion
Our automatic image analysis methods recapitulate known co-regulated genes and give correct developmental-stage classifications with 99+% accuracy, despite variations in morphology, orientation, and focal plane suggesting that these techniques form a set of useful tools for the large-scale computational analysis of fly embryonic gene expression patterns.
doi:10.1186/1471-2121-8-S1-S7
PMCID: PMC1924512  PMID: 17634097
19.  Gramene: Development and Integration of Trait and Gene Ontologies for Rice 
Gramene (http://www.gramene.org/) is a comparative genome database for cereal crops and a community resource for rice. We are populating and curating Gramene with annotated rice (Oryza sativa) genomic sequence data and associated biological information including molecular markers, mutants, phenotypes, polymorphisms and Quantitative Trait Loci (QTL). In order to support queries across various data sets as well as across external databases, Gramene will employ three related controlled vocabularies. The specific goal of Gramene is, first to provide a Trait Ontology (TO) that can be used across the cereal crops to facilitate phenotypic comparisons both within and between the genera. Second, a vocabulary for plant anatomy terms, the Plant Ontology (PO) will facilitate the curation of morphological and anatomical feature information with respect to expression, localization of genes and gene products and the affected plant parts in a phenotype. The TO and PO are both in the early stages of development in collaboration with the International Rice Research Institute, TAIR and MaizeDB as part of the Plant Ontology Consortium. Finally, as part of another consortium comprising macromolecular databases from other model organisms, the Gene Ontology Consortium, we are annotating the confirmed and predicted protein entries from rice using both electronic and manual curation.
doi:10.1002/cfg.156
PMCID: PMC2447246  PMID: 18628886
20.  Methodology for the inference of gene function from phenotype data 
BMC Bioinformatics  2014;15(1):405.
Background
Biomedical ontologies are increasingly instrumental in the advancement of biological research primarily through their use to efficiently consolidate large amounts of data into structured, accessible sets. However, ontology development and usage can be hampered by the segregation of knowledge by domain that occurs due to independent development and use of the ontologies. The ability to infer data associated with one ontology to data associated with another ontology would prove useful in expanding information content and scope. We here focus on relating two ontologies: the Gene Ontology (GO), which encodes canonical gene function, and the Mammalian Phenotype Ontology (MP), which describes non-canonical phenotypes, using statistical methods to suggest GO functional annotations from existing MP phenotype annotations. This work is in contrast to previous studies that have focused on inferring gene function from phenotype primarily through lexical or semantic similarity measures.
Results
We have designed and tested a set of algorithms that represents a novel methodology to define rules for predicting gene function by examining the emergent structure and relationships between the gene functions and phenotypes rather than inspecting the terms semantically. The algorithms inspect relationships among multiple phenotype terms to deduce if there are cases where they all arise from a single gene function.
We apply this methodology to data about genes in the laboratory mouse that are formally represented in the Mouse Genome Informatics (MGI) resource. From the data, 7444 rule instances were generated from five generalized rules, resulting in 4818 unique GO functional predictions for 1796 genes.
Conclusions
We show that our method is capable of inferring high-quality functional annotations from curated phenotype data. As well as creating inferred annotations, our method has the potential to allow for the elucidation of unforeseen, biologically significant associations between gene function and phenotypes that would be overlooked by a semantics-based approach. Future work will include the implementation of the described algorithms for a variety of other model organism databases, taking full advantage of the abundance of available high quality curated data.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12859-014-0405-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1186/s12859-014-0405-z
PMCID: PMC4302099  PMID: 25495798
Gene ontology; Mammalian phenotype ontology; Function prediction; Ontology development
21.  Discovering gene annotations in biomedical text databases 
BMC Bioinformatics  2008;9:143.
Background
Genes and gene products are frequently annotated with Gene Ontology concepts based on the evidence provided in genomics articles. Manually locating and curating information about a genomic entity from the biomedical literature requires vast amounts of human effort. Hence, there is clearly a need forautomated computational tools to annotate the genes and gene products with Gene Ontology concepts by computationally capturing the related knowledge embedded in textual data.
Results
In this article, we present an automated genomic entity annotation system, GEANN, which extracts information about the characteristics of genes and gene products in article abstracts from PubMed, and translates the discoveredknowledge into Gene Ontology (GO) concepts, a widely-used standardized vocabulary of genomic traits. GEANN utilizes textual "extraction patterns", and a semantic matching framework to locate phrases matching to a pattern and produce Gene Ontology annotations for genes and gene products.
In our experiments, GEANN has reached to the precision level of 78% at therecall level of 61%. On a select set of Gene Ontology concepts, GEANN either outperforms or is comparable to two other automated annotation studies. Use of WordNet for semantic pattern matching improves the precision and recall by 24% and 15%, respectively, and the improvement due to semantic pattern matching becomes more apparent as the Gene Ontology terms become more general.
Conclusion
GEANN is useful for two distinct purposes: (i) automating the annotation of genomic entities with Gene Ontology concepts, and (ii) providing existing annotations with additional "evidence articles" from the literature. The use of textual extraction patterns that are constructed based on the existing annotations achieve high precision. The semantic pattern matching framework provides a more flexible pattern matching scheme with respect to "exactmatching" with the advantage of locating approximate pattern occurrences with similar semantics. Relatively low recall performance of our pattern-based approach may be enhanced either by employing a probabilistic annotation framework based on the annotation neighbourhoods in textual data, or, alternatively, the statistical enrichment threshold may be adjusted to lower values for applications that put more value on achieving higher recall values.
doi:10.1186/1471-2105-9-143
PMCID: PMC2335285  PMID: 18325104
22.  The HUPO proteomics standards initiative- mass spectrometry controlled vocabulary 
Controlled vocabularies (CVs), i.e. a collection of predefined terms describing a modeling domain, used for the semantic annotation of data, and ontologies are used in structured data formats and databases to avoid inconsistencies in annotation, to have a unique (and preferably short) accession number and to give researchers and computer algorithms the possibility for more expressive semantic annotation of data. The Human Proteome Organization (HUPO)–Proteomics Standards Initiative (PSI) makes extensive use of ontologies/CVs in their data formats. The PSI-Mass Spectrometry (MS) CV contains all the terms used in the PSI MS–related data standards. The CV contains a logical hierarchical structure to ensure ease of maintenance and the development of software that makes use of complex semantics. The CV contains terms required for a complete description of an MS analysis pipeline used in proteomics, including sample labeling, digestion enzymes, instrumentation parts and parameters, software used for identification and quantification of peptides/proteins and the parameters and scores used to determine their significance. Owing to the range of topics covered by the CV, collaborative development across several PSI working groups, including proteomics research groups, instrument manufacturers and software vendors, was necessary. In this article, we describe the overall structure of the CV, the process by which it has been developed and is maintained and the dependencies on other ontologies.
Database URL: http://psidev.cvs.sourceforge.net/viewvc/psidev/psi/psi-ms/mzML/controlledVocabulary/psi-ms.obo
doi:10.1093/database/bat009
PMCID: PMC3594986  PMID: 23482073
23.  Bi-directional semantic similarity for gene ontology to optimize biological and clinical analyses 
Background
Semantic similarity analysis facilitates automated semantic explanations of biological and clinical data annotated by biomedical ontologies. Gene ontology (GO) has become one of the most important biomedical ontologies with a set of controlled vocabularies, providing rich semantic annotations for genes and molecular phenotypes for diseases. Current methods for measuring GO semantic similarities are limited to considering only the ancestor terms while neglecting the descendants. One can find many GO term pairs whose ancestors are identical but whose descendants are very different and vice versa. Moreover, the lower parts of GO trees are full of terms with more specific semantics.
Methods
This study proposed a method of measuring semantic similarities between GO terms using the entire GO tree structure, including both the upper (ancestral) and the lower (descendant) parts. Comprehensive comparison studies were performed with well-known information content-based and graph structure-based semantic similarity measures with protein sequence similarities, gene expression-profile correlations, protein–protein interactions, and biological pathway analyses.
Conclusion
The proposed bidirectional measure of semantic similarity outperformed other graph-based and information content-based methods.
doi:10.1136/amiajnl-2011-000659
PMCID: PMC3422825  PMID: 22374934
Bioinformatics; medical informatics; meta-data
24.  Preserving sequence annotations across reference sequences 
Journal of Biomedical Semantics  2014;5(Suppl 1):S6.
Background
Matching and comparing sequence annotations of different reference sequences is vital to genomics research, yet many annotation formats do not specify the reference sequence types or versions used. This makes the integration of annotations from different sources difficult and error prone.
Results
As part of our effort to create linked data for interoperable sequence annotations, we present an RDF data model for sequence annotation using the ontological framework established by the OBO Foundry ontologies and the Basic Formal Ontology (BFO). We defined reference sequences as the common domain of integration for sequence annotations, and identified three semantic relationships between sequence annotations. In doing so, we created the Reference Sequence Annotation to compensate for gaps in the SO and in its mapping to BFO, particularly for annotations that refer to versions of consensus reference sequences. Moreover, we present three integration models for sequence annotations using different reference assemblies.
Conclusions
We demonstrated a working example of a sequence annotation instance, and how this instance can be linked to other annotations on different reference sequences. Sequence annotations in this format are semantically rich and can be integrated easily with different assemblies. We also identify other challenges of modeling reference sequences with the BFO.
doi:10.1186/2041-1480-5-S1-S6
PMCID: PMC4108922  PMID: 25093075
25.  A domain-centric solution to functional genomics via dcGO Predictor 
BMC Bioinformatics  2013;14(Suppl 3):S9.
Background
Computational/manual annotations of protein functions are one of the first routes to making sense of a newly sequenced genome. Protein domain predictions form an essential part of this annotation process. This is due to the natural modularity of proteins with domains as structural, evolutionary and functional units. Sometimes two, three, or more adjacent domains (called supra-domains) are the operational unit responsible for a function, e.g. via a binding site at the interface. These supra-domains have contributed to functional diversification in higher organisms. Traditionally functional ontologies have been applied to individual proteins, rather than families of related domains and supra-domains. We expect, however, to some extent functional signals can be carried by protein domains and supra-domains, and consequently used in function prediction and functional genomics.
Results
Here we present a domain-centric Gene Ontology (dcGO) perspective. We generalize a framework for automatically inferring ontological terms associated with domains and supra-domains from full-length sequence annotations. This general framework has been applied specifically to primary protein-level annotations from UniProtKB-GOA, generating GO term associations with SCOP domains and supra-domains. The resulting 'dcGO Predictor', can be used to provide functional annotation to protein sequences. The functional annotation of sequences in the Critical Assessment of Function Annotation (CAFA) has been used as a valuable opportunity to validate our method and to be assessed by the community. The functional annotation of all completely sequenced genomes has demonstrated the potential for domain-centric GO enrichment analysis to yield functional insights into newly sequenced or yet-to-be-annotated genomes. This generalized framework we have presented has also been applied to other domain classifications such as InterPro and Pfam, and other ontologies such as mammalian phenotype and disease ontology. The dcGO and its predictor are available at http://supfam.org/SUPERFAMILY/dcGO including an enrichment analysis tool.
Conclusions
As functional units, domains offer a unique perspective on function prediction regardless of whether proteins are multi-domain or single-domain. The 'dcGO Predictor' holds great promise for contributing to a domain-centric functional understanding of genomes in the next generation sequencing era.
doi:10.1186/1471-2105-14-S3-S9
PMCID: PMC3584936  PMID: 23514627

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