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1.  The use of semantic similarity measures for optimally integrating heterogeneous Gene Ontology data from large scale annotation pipelines 
Frontiers in Genetics  2014;5:264.
With the advancement of new high throughput sequencing technologies, there has been an increase in the number of genome sequencing projects worldwide, which has yielded complete genome sequences of human, animals and plants. Subsequently, several labs have focused on genome annotation, consisting of assigning functions to gene products, mostly using Gene Ontology (GO) terms. As a consequence, there is an increased heterogeneity in annotations across genomes due to different approaches used by different pipelines to infer these annotations and also due to the nature of the GO structure itself. This makes a curator's task difficult, even if they adhere to the established guidelines for assessing these protein annotations. Here we develop a genome-scale approach for integrating GO annotations from different pipelines using semantic similarity measures. We used this approach to identify inconsistencies and similarities in functional annotations between orthologs of human and Drosophila melanogaster, to assess the quality of GO annotations derived from InterPro2GO mappings compared to manually annotated GO annotations for the Drosophila melanogaster proteome from a FlyBase dataset and human, and to filter GO annotation data for these proteomes. Results obtained indicate that an efficient integration of GO annotations eliminates redundancy up to 27.08 and 22.32% in the Drosophila melanogaster and human GO annotation datasets, respectively. Furthermore, we identified lack of and missing annotations for some orthologs, and annotation mismatches between InterPro2GO and manual pipelines in these two proteomes, thus requiring further curation. This simplifies and facilitates tasks of curators in assessing protein annotations, reduces redundancy and eliminates inconsistencies in large annotation datasets for ease of comparative functional genomics.
PMCID: PMC4123725  PMID: 25147557
functional annotation; Gene Ontology annotation; annotation pipeline; manual annotation; electronic annotation
2.  Combined Evidence Annotation of Transposable Elements in Genome Sequences 
PLoS Computational Biology  2005;1(2):e22.
Transposable elements (TEs) are mobile, repetitive sequences that make up significant fractions of metazoan genomes. Despite their near ubiquity and importance in genome and chromosome biology, most efforts to annotate TEs in genome sequences rely on the results of a single computational program, RepeatMasker. In contrast, recent advances in gene annotation indicate that high-quality gene models can be produced from combining multiple independent sources of computational evidence. To elevate the quality of TE annotations to a level comparable to that of gene models, we have developed a combined evidence-model TE annotation pipeline, analogous to systems used for gene annotation, by integrating results from multiple homology-based and de novo TE identification methods. As proof of principle, we have annotated “TE models” in Drosophila melanogaster Release 4 genomic sequences using the combined computational evidence derived from RepeatMasker, BLASTER, TBLASTX, all-by-all BLASTN, RECON, TE-HMM and the previous Release 3.1 annotation. Our system is designed for use with the Apollo genome annotation tool, allowing automatic results to be curated manually to produce reliable annotations. The euchromatic TE fraction of D. melanogaster is now estimated at 5.3% (cf. 3.86% in Release 3.1), and we found a substantially higher number of TEs (n = 6,013) than previously identified (n = 1,572). Most of the new TEs derive from small fragments of a few hundred nucleotides long and highly abundant families not previously annotated (e.g., INE-1). We also estimated that 518 TE copies (8.6%) are inserted into at least one other TE, forming a nest of elements. The pipeline allows rapid and thorough annotation of even the most complex TE models, including highly deleted and/or nested elements such as those often found in heterochromatic sequences. Our pipeline can be easily adapted to other genome sequences, such as those of the D. melanogaster heterochromatin or other species in the genus Drosophila.
A first step in adding value to the large-scale DNA sequences generated by genome projects is the process of annotation—marking biological features on the raw string of adenines, cytosines, guanines, and thymines. The predominant goal in genome annotation thus far has been to identify gene sequences that encode proteins; however, many functional sequences exist in non-protein-coding regions and their annotation remains incomplete. Mobile, repetitive DNA segments known as transposable elements (TEs) are one class of functional sequence in non-protein-coding regions, which can make up large fractions of genome sequences (e.g., about 45% in the human) and can play important roles in gene and chromosome structure and regulation. As a consequence, there has been increasing interest in the computational identification of TEs in genome sequences. Borrowing current ideas from the field of gene annotation, the authors have developed a pipeline to predict TEs in genome sequences that combines multiple sources of evidence from different computational methods. The authors' combined-evidence pipeline represents an important step towards raising the standards of TE annotation to the same quality as that of genes, and should help catalyze their understanding of the biological role of these fascinating sequences.
PMCID: PMC1185648  PMID: 16110336
3.  Quality of Computationally Inferred Gene Ontology Annotations 
PLoS Computational Biology  2012;8(5):e1002533.
Gene Ontology (GO) has established itself as the undisputed standard for protein function annotation. Most annotations are inferred electronically, i.e. without individual curator supervision, but they are widely considered unreliable. At the same time, we crucially depend on those automated annotations, as most newly sequenced genomes are non-model organisms. Here, we introduce a methodology to systematically and quantitatively evaluate electronic annotations. By exploiting changes in successive releases of the UniProt Gene Ontology Annotation database, we assessed the quality of electronic annotations in terms of specificity, reliability, and coverage. Overall, we not only found that electronic annotations have significantly improved in recent years, but also that their reliability now rivals that of annotations inferred by curators when they use evidence other than experiments from primary literature. This work provides the means to identify the subset of electronic annotations that can be relied upon—an important outcome given that >98% of all annotations are inferred without direct curation.
Author Summary
In the UniProt Gene Ontology Annotation database, the largest repository of functional annotations, over 98% of all function annotations are inferred in silico, without curator oversight. Yet these “electronic GO annotations” are generally perceived as unreliable; they are disregarded in many studies. In this article, we introduce novel methodology to systematically evaluate the quality of electronic annotations. We then provide the first comprehensive assessment of the reliability of electronic GO annotations. Overall, we found that electronic annotations are more reliable than generally believed, to an extent that they are competitive with annotations inferred by curators when they use evidence other than experiments from primary literature. But we also report significant variations among inference methods, types of annotations, and organisms. This work provides guidance for Gene Ontology users and lays the foundations for improving computational approaches to GO function inference.
PMCID: PMC3364937  PMID: 22693439
4.  EuCAP, a Eukaryotic Community Annotation Package, and its application to the rice genome 
BMC Genomics  2007;8:388.
Despite the improvements of tools for automated annotation of genome sequences, manual curation at the structural and functional level can provide an increased level of refinement to genome annotation. The Institute for Genomic Research Rice Genome Annotation (hereafter named the Osa1 Genome Annotation) is the product of an automated pipeline and, for this reason, will benefit from the input of biologists with expertise in rice and/or particular gene families. Leveraging knowledge from a dispersed community of scientists is a demonstrated way of improving a genome annotation. This requires tools that facilitate 1) the submission of gene annotation to an annotation project, 2) the review of the submitted models by project annotators, and 3) the incorporation of the submitted models in the ongoing annotation effort.
We have developed the Eukaryotic Community Annotation Package (EuCAP), an annotation tool, and have applied it to the rice genome. The primary level of curation by community annotators (CA) has been the annotation of gene families. Annotation can be submitted by email or through the EuCAP Web Tool. The CA models are aligned to the rice pseudomolecules and the coordinates of these alignments, along with functional annotation, are stored in the MySQL EuCAP Gene Model database. Web pages displaying the alignments of the CA models to the Osa1 Genome models are automatically generated from the EuCAP Gene Model database. The alignments are reviewed by the project annotators (PAs) in the context of experimental evidence. Upon approval by the PAs, the CA models, along with the corresponding functional annotations, are integrated into the Osa1 Genome Annotation. The CA annotations, grouped by family, are displayed on the Community Annotation pages of the project website , as well as in the Community Annotation track of the Genome Browser.
We have applied EuCAP to rice. As of July 2007, the structural and/or functional annotation of 1,094 genes representing 57 families have been deposited and integrated into the current gene set. All of the EuCAP components are open-source, thereby allowing the implementation of EuCAP for the annotation of other genomes. EuCAP is available at .
PMCID: PMC2151081  PMID: 17961238
5.  MicroScope: a platform for microbial genome annotation and comparative genomics 
The initial outcome of genome sequencing is the creation of long text strings written in a four letter alphabet. The role of in silico sequence analysis is to assist biologists in the act of associating biological knowledge with these sequences, allowing investigators to make inferences and predictions that can be tested experimentally. A wide variety of software is available to the scientific community, and can be used to identify genomic objects, before predicting their biological functions. However, only a limited number of biologically interesting features can be revealed from an isolated sequence. Comparative genomics tools, on the other hand, by bringing together the information contained in numerous genomes simultaneously, allow annotators to make inferences based on the idea that evolution and natural selection are central to the definition of all biological processes. We have developed the MicroScope platform in order to offer a web-based framework for the systematic and efficient revision of microbial genome annotation and comparative analysis ( Starting with the description of the flow chart of the annotation processes implemented in the MicroScope pipeline, and the development of traditional and novel microbial annotation and comparative analysis tools, this article emphasizes the essential role of expert annotation as a complement of automatic annotation. Several examples illustrate the use of implemented tools for the review and curation of annotations of both new and publicly available microbial genomes within MicroScope’s rich integrated genome framework. The platform is used as a viewer in order to browse updated annotation information of available microbial genomes (more than 440 organisms to date), and in the context of new annotation projects (117 bacterial genomes). The human expertise gathered in the MicroScope database (about 280,000 independent annotations) contributes to improve the quality of microbial genome annotation, especially for genomes initially analyzed by automatic procedures alone.
Database URLs: and
PMCID: PMC2790312  PMID: 20157493
6.  TranSeqAnnotator: large-scale analysis of transcriptomic data 
BMC Bioinformatics  2012;13(Suppl 17):S24.
The transcriptome of an organism can be studied with the analysis of expressed sequence tag (EST) data sets that offers a rapid and cost effective approach with several new and updated bioinformatics approaches and tools for assembly and annotation. The comprehensive analyses comprehend an organism along with the genome and proteome analysis. With the advent of large-scale sequencing projects and generation of sequence data at protein and cDNA levels, automated analysis pipeline is necessary to store, organize and annotate ESTs.
TranSeqAnnotator is a workflow for large-scale analysis of transcriptomic data with the most appropriate bioinformatics tools for data management and analysis. The pipeline automatically cleans, clusters, assembles and generates consensus sequences, conceptually translates these into possible protein products and assigns putative function based on various DNA and protein similarity searches. Excretory/secretory (ES) proteins inferred from ESTs/short reads are also identified. The TranSeqAnnotator accepts FASTA format raw and quality ESTs along with protein and short read sequences and are analysed with user selected programs. After pre-processing and assembly, the dataset is annotated at the nucleotide, protein and ES protein levels.
TranSeqAnnotator has been developed in a Linux cluster, to perform an exhaustive and reliable analysis and provide detailed annotation. TranSeqAnnotator outputs gene ontologies, protein functional identifications in terms of mapping to protein domains and metabolic pathways. The pipeline is applied to annotate large EST datasets to identify several novel and known genes with therapeutic experimental validations and could serve as potential targets for parasite intervention. TransSeqAnnotator is freely available for the scientific community at
PMCID: PMC3521237  PMID: 23282024
7.  Protein Molecular Function Prediction by Bayesian Phylogenomics 
PLoS Computational Biology  2005;1(5):e45.
We present a statistical graphical model to infer specific molecular function for unannotated protein sequences using homology. Based on phylogenomic principles, SIFTER (Statistical Inference of Function Through Evolutionary Relationships) accurately predicts molecular function for members of a protein family given a reconciled phylogeny and available function annotations, even when the data are sparse or noisy. Our method produced specific and consistent molecular function predictions across 100 Pfam families in comparison to the Gene Ontology annotation database, BLAST, GOtcha, and Orthostrapper. We performed a more detailed exploration of functional predictions on the adenosine-5′-monophosphate/adenosine deaminase family and the lactate/malate dehydrogenase family, in the former case comparing the predictions against a gold standard set of published functional characterizations. Given function annotations for 3% of the proteins in the deaminase family, SIFTER achieves 96% accuracy in predicting molecular function for experimentally characterized proteins as reported in the literature. The accuracy of SIFTER on this dataset is a significant improvement over other currently available methods such as BLAST (75%), GeneQuiz (64%), GOtcha (89%), and Orthostrapper (11%). We also experimentally characterized the adenosine deaminase from Plasmodium falciparum, confirming SIFTER's prediction. The results illustrate the predictive power of exploiting a statistical model of function evolution in phylogenomic problems. A software implementation of SIFTER is available from the authors.
New genome sequences continue to be published at a prodigious rate. However, unannotated sequences are of limited use to biologists. To computationally annotate a hypothetical protein for molecular function, researchers generally attempt to carry out some form of information transfer from evolutionarily related proteins. Such transfer is most successfully achieved within the context of phylogenetic relationships, exploiting the comprehensive knowledge that is available regarding molecular evolution within a given protein family. This general approach to molecular function annotation is known as phylogenomics, and it is the best method currently available for providing high-quality annotations. A drawback of phylogenomics, however, is that it is a time-consuming manual process requiring expert knowledge. In the current paper, the authors have developed a statistical approach—referred to as SIFTER (Statistical Inference of Function Through Evolutionary Relationships)—that allows phylogenomic analyses to be carried out automatically.
The authors present the results of running SIFTER on a collection of 100 protein families. They also validate their method on a specific family for which a gold standard set of experimental annotations is available. They show that SIFTER annotates 96% of the gold standard proteins correctly, outperforming popular annotation methods including BLAST-based annotation (75%), GOtcha (89%), GeneQuiz (64%), and Orthostrapper (11%). The results support the feasibility of carrying out high-quality phylogenomic analyses of entire genomes.
PMCID: PMC1246806  PMID: 16217548
8.  Next generation models for storage and representation of microbial biological annotation 
BMC Bioinformatics  2010;11(Suppl 6):S15.
Traditional genome annotation systems were developed in a very different computing era, one where the World Wide Web was just emerging. Consequently, these systems are built as centralized black boxes focused on generating high quality annotation submissions to GenBank/EMBL supported by expert manual curation. The exponential growth of sequence data drives a growing need for increasingly higher quality and automatically generated annotation.
Typical annotation pipelines utilize traditional database technologies, clustered computing resources, Perl, C, and UNIX file systems to process raw sequence data, identify genes, and predict and categorize gene function. These technologies tightly couple the annotation software system to hardware and third party software (e.g. relational database systems and schemas). This makes annotation systems hard to reproduce, inflexible to modification over time, difficult to assess, difficult to partition across multiple geographic sites, and difficult to understand for those who are not domain experts. These systems are not readily open to scrutiny and therefore not scientifically tractable.
The advent of Semantic Web standards such as Resource Description Framework (RDF) and OWL Web Ontology Language (OWL) enables us to construct systems that address these challenges in a new comprehensive way.
Here, we develop a framework for linking traditional data to OWL-based ontologies in genome annotation. We show how data standards can decouple hardware and third party software tools from annotation pipelines, thereby making annotation pipelines easier to reproduce and assess. An illustrative example shows how TURTLE (Terse RDF Triple Language) can be used as a human readable, but also semantically-aware, equivalent to GenBank/EMBL files.
The power of this approach lies in its ability to assemble annotation data from multiple databases across multiple locations into a representation that is understandable to researchers. In this way, all researchers, experimental and computational, will more easily understand the informatics processes constructing genome annotation and ultimately be able to help improve the systems that produce them.
PMCID: PMC3026362  PMID: 20946598
9.  Semi-automated curation of protein subcellular localization: a text mining-based approach to Gene Ontology (GO) Cellular Component curation 
BMC Bioinformatics  2009;10:228.
Manual curation of experimental data from the biomedical literature is an expensive and time-consuming endeavor. Nevertheless, most biological knowledge bases still rely heavily on manual curation for data extraction and entry. Text mining software that can semi- or fully automate information retrieval from the literature would thus provide a significant boost to manual curation efforts.
We employ the Textpresso category-based information retrieval and extraction system , developed by WormBase to explore how Textpresso might improve the efficiency with which we manually curate C. elegans proteins to the Gene Ontology's Cellular Component Ontology. Using a training set of sentences that describe results of localization experiments in the published literature, we generated three new curation task-specific categories (Cellular Components, Assay Terms, and Verbs) containing words and phrases associated with reports of experimentally determined subcellular localization. We compared the results of manual curation to that of Textpresso queries that searched the full text of articles for sentences containing terms from each of the three new categories plus the name of a previously uncurated C. elegans protein, and found that Textpresso searches identified curatable papers with recall and precision rates of 79.1% and 61.8%, respectively (F-score of 69.5%), when compared to manual curation. Within those documents, Textpresso identified relevant sentences with recall and precision rates of 30.3% and 80.1% (F-score of 44.0%). From returned sentences, curators were able to make 66.2% of all possible experimentally supported GO Cellular Component annotations with 97.3% precision (F-score of 78.8%). Measuring the relative efficiencies of Textpresso-based versus manual curation we find that Textpresso has the potential to increase curation efficiency by at least 8-fold, and perhaps as much as 15-fold, given differences in individual curatorial speed.
Textpresso is an effective tool for improving the efficiency of manual, experimentally based curation. Incorporating a Textpresso-based Cellular Component curation pipeline at WormBase has allowed us to transition from strictly manual curation of this data type to a more efficient pipeline of computer-assisted validation. Continued development of curation task-specific Textpresso categories will provide an invaluable resource for genomics databases that rely heavily on manual curation.
PMCID: PMC2719631  PMID: 19622167
10.  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.
PMCID: PMC2699109  PMID: 19578431
11.  TriAnnot: A Versatile and High Performance Pipeline for the Automated Annotation of Plant Genomes 
In support of the international effort to obtain a reference sequence of the bread wheat genome and to provide plant communities dealing with large and complex genomes with a versatile, easy-to-use online automated tool for annotation, we have developed the TriAnnot pipeline. Its modular architecture allows for the annotation and masking of transposable elements, the structural, and functional annotation of protein-coding genes with an evidence-based quality indexing, and the identification of conserved non-coding sequences and molecular markers. The TriAnnot pipeline is parallelized on a 712 CPU computing cluster that can run a 1-Gb sequence annotation in less than 5 days. It is accessible through a web interface for small scale analyses or through a server for large scale annotations. The performance of TriAnnot was evaluated in terms of sensitivity, specificity, and general fitness using curated reference sequence sets from rice and wheat. In less than 8 h, TriAnnot was able to predict more than 83% of the 3,748 CDS from rice chromosome 1 with a fitness of 67.4%. On a set of 12 reference Mb-sized contigs from wheat chromosome 3B, TriAnnot predicted and annotated 93.3% of the genes among which 54% were perfectly identified in accordance with the reference annotation. It also allowed the curation of 12 genes based on new biological evidences, increasing the percentage of perfect gene prediction to 63%. TriAnnot systematically showed a higher fitness than other annotation pipelines that are not improved for wheat. As it is easily adaptable to the annotation of other plant genomes, TriAnnot should become a useful resource for the annotation of large and complex genomes in the future.
PMCID: PMC3355818  PMID: 22645565
cluster; gene models; pipeline; plant genome; structural and functional annotation; transposable elements; wheat
12.  Gene Ontology annotation of the rice blast fungus, Magnaporthe oryzae 
BMC Microbiology  2009;9(Suppl 1):S8.
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.
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.
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.
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.
PMCID: PMC2654668  PMID: 19278556
13.  AgBase: a unified resource for functional analysis in agriculture 
Nucleic Acids Research  2006;35(Database issue):D599-D603.
Analysis of functional genomics (transcriptomics and proteomics) datasets is hindered in agricultural species because agricultural genome sequences have relatively poor structural and functional annotation. To facilitate systems biology in these species we have established the curated, web-accessible, public resource ‘AgBase’ (). We have improved the structural annotation of agriculturally important genomes by experimentally confirming the in vivo expression of electronically predicted proteins and by proteogenomic mapping. Proteogenomic data are available from the AgBase proteogenomics link. We contribute Gene Ontology (GO) annotations and we provide a two tier system of GO annotations for users. The ‘GO Consortium’ gene association file contains the most rigorous GO annotations based solely on experimental data. The ‘Community’ gene association file contains GO annotations based on expert community knowledge (annotations based directly from author statements and submitted annotations from the community) and annotations for predicted proteins. We have developed two tools for proteomics analysis and these are freely available on request. A suite of tools for analyzing functional genomics datasets using the GO is available online at the AgBase site. We encourage and publicly acknowledge GO annotations from researchers and provide an online mechanism for agricultural researchers to submit requests for GO annotations.
PMCID: PMC1751552  PMID: 17135208
14.  CGKB: an annotation knowledge base for cowpea (Vigna unguiculata L.) methylation filtered genomic genespace sequences 
BMC Bioinformatics  2007;8:129.
Cowpea [Vigna unguiculata (L.) Walp.] is one of the most important food and forage legumes in the semi-arid tropics because of its ability to tolerate drought and grow on poor soils. It is cultivated mostly by poor farmers in developing countries, with 80% of production taking place in the dry savannah of tropical West and Central Africa. Cowpea is largely an underexploited crop with relatively little genomic information available for use in applied plant breeding. The goal of the Cowpea Genomics Initiative (CGI), funded by the Kirkhouse Trust, a UK-based charitable organization, is to leverage modern molecular genetic tools for gene discovery and cowpea improvement. One aspect of the initiative is the sequencing of the gene-rich region of the cowpea genome (termed the genespace) recovered using methylation filtration technology and providing annotation and analysis of the sequence data.
CGKB, Cowpea Genespace/Genomics Knowledge Base, is an annotation knowledge base developed under the CGI. The database is based on information derived from 298,848 cowpea genespace sequences (GSS) isolated by methylation filtering of genomic DNA. The CGKB consists of three knowledge bases: GSS annotation and comparative genomics knowledge base, GSS enzyme and metabolic pathway knowledge base, and GSS simple sequence repeats (SSRs) knowledge base for molecular marker discovery. A homology-based approach was applied for annotations of the GSS, mainly using BLASTX against four public FASTA formatted protein databases (NCBI GenBank Proteins, UniProtKB-Swiss-Prot, UniprotKB-PIR (Protein Information Resource), and UniProtKB-TrEMBL). Comparative genome analysis was done by BLASTX searches of the cowpea GSS against four plant proteomes from Arabidopsis thaliana, Oryza sativa, Medicago truncatula, and Populus trichocarpa. The possible exons and introns on each cowpea GSS were predicted using the HMM-based Genscan gene predication program and the potential domains on annotated GSS were analyzed using the HMMER package against the Pfam database. The annotated GSS were also assigned with Gene Ontology annotation terms and integrated with 228 curated plant metabolic pathways from the Arabidopsis Information Resource (TAIR) knowledge base. The UniProtKB-Swiss-Prot ENZYME database was used to assign putative enzymatic function to each GSS. Each GSS was also analyzed with the Tandem Repeat Finder (TRF) program in order to identify potential SSRs for molecular marker discovery. The raw sequence data, processed annotation, and SSR results were stored in relational tables designed in key-value pair fashion using a PostgreSQL relational database management system. The biological knowledge derived from the sequence data and processed results are represented as views or materialized views in the relational database management system. All materialized views are indexed for quick data access and retrieval. Data processing and analysis pipelines were implemented using the Perl programming language. The web interface was implemented in JavaScript and Perl CGI running on an Apache web server. The CPU intensive data processing and analysis pipelines were run on a computer cluster of more than 30 dual-processor Apple XServes. A job management system called Vela was created as a robust way to submit large numbers of jobs to the Portable Batch System (PBS).
CGKB is an integrated and annotated resource for cowpea GSS with features of homology-based and HMM-based annotations, enzyme and pathway annotations, GO term annotation, toolkits, and a large number of other facilities to perform complex queries. The cowpea GSS, chloroplast sequences, mitochondrial sequences, retroelements, and SSR sequences are available as FASTA formatted files and downloadable at CGKB. This database and web interface are publicly accessible at .
PMCID: PMC1868039  PMID: 17445272
15.  A semi-automated genome annotation comparison and integration scheme 
BMC Bioinformatics  2013;14:172.
Different genome annotation services have been developed in recent years and widely used. However, the functional annotation results from different services are often not the same and a scheme to obtain consensus functional annotations by integrating different results is in demand.
This article presents a semi-automated scheme that is capable of comparing functional annotations from different sources and consequently obtaining a consensus genome functional annotation result. In this study, we used four automated annotation services to annotate a newly sequenced genome--Arcobacter butzleri ED-1. Our scheme is divided into annotation comparison and annotation determination sections. In the functional annotation comparison section, we employed gene synonym lists to tackle term difference problems. Multiple techniques from information retrieval were used to preprocess the functional annotations. Based on the functional annotation comparison results, we designed a decision tree to obtain a consensus functional annotation result. Experimental results show that our approach can greatly reduce the workload of manual comparison by automatically comparing 87% of the functional annotations. In addition, it automatically determined 87% of the functional annotations, leaving only 13% of the genes for manual curation. We applied this approach across six phylogenetically different genomes in order to assess the performance consistency. The results showed that our scheme is able to automatically perform, on average, 73% and 86% of the annotation comparison and determination tasks, respectively.
We propose a semi-automatic and effective scheme to compare and determine genome functional annotations. It greatly reduces the manual work required in genome functional annotation. As this scheme does not require any specific biological knowledge, it is readily applicable for genome annotation comparison and genome re-annotation projects.
PMCID: PMC3680241  PMID: 23725374
Genome annotation comparison; Genome annotation determination; Automated annotation services
16.  Automated methods of predicting the function of biological sequences using GO and BLAST 
BMC Bioinformatics  2005;6:272.
With the exponential increase in genomic sequence data there is a need to develop automated approaches to deducing the biological functions of novel sequences with high accuracy. Our aim is to demonstrate how accuracy benchmarking can be used in a decision-making process evaluating competing designs of biological function predictors. We utilise the Gene Ontology, GO, a directed acyclic graph of functional terms, to annotate sequences with functional information describing their biological context. Initially we examine the effect on accuracy scores of increasing the allowed distance between predicted and a test set of curator assigned terms. Next we evaluate several annotator methods using accuracy benchmarking. Given an unannotated sequence we use the Basic Local Alignment Search Tool, BLAST, to find similar sequences that have already been assigned GO terms by curators. A number of methods were developed that utilise terms associated with the best five matching sequences. These methods were compared against a benchmark method of simply using terms associated with the best BLAST-matched sequence (best BLAST approach).
The precision and recall of estimates increases rapidly as the amount of distance permitted between a predicted term and a correct term assignment increases. Accuracy benchmarking allows a comparison of annotation methods. A covering graph approach performs poorly, except where the term assignment rate is high. A term distance concordance approach has a similar accuracy to the best BLAST approach, demonstrating lower precision but higher recall. However, a discriminant function method has higher precision and recall than the best BLAST approach and other methods shown here.
Allowing term predictions to be counted correct if closely related to a correct term decreases the reliability of the accuracy score. As such we recommend using accuracy measures that require exact matching of predicted terms with curator assigned terms. Furthermore, we conclude that competing designs of BLAST-based GO term annotators can be effectively compared using an accuracy benchmarking approach. The most accurate annotation method was developed using data mining techniques. As such we recommend that designers of term annotators utilise accuracy benchmarking and data mining to ensure newly developed annotators are of high quality.
PMCID: PMC1298289  PMID: 16288652
17.  Evaluation of BioCreAtIvE assessment of task 2 
BMC Bioinformatics  2005;6(Suppl 1):S16.
Molecular Biology accumulated substantial amounts of data concerning functions of genes and proteins. Information relating to functional descriptions is generally extracted manually from textual data and stored in biological databases to build up annotations for large collections of gene products. Those annotation databases are crucial for the interpretation of large scale analysis approaches using bioinformatics or experimental techniques. Due to the growing accumulation of functional descriptions in biomedical literature the need for text mining tools to facilitate the extraction of such annotations is urgent. In order to make text mining tools useable in real world scenarios, for instance to assist database curators during annotation of protein function, comparisons and evaluations of different approaches on full text articles are needed.
The Critical Assessment for Information Extraction in Biology (BioCreAtIvE) contest consists of a community wide competition aiming to evaluate different strategies for text mining tools, as applied to biomedical literature. We report on task two which addressed the automatic extraction and assignment of Gene Ontology (GO) annotations of human proteins, using full text articles. The predictions of task 2 are based on triplets of protein – GO term – article passage. The annotation-relevant text passages were returned by the participants and evaluated by expert curators of the GO annotation (GOA) team at the European Institute of Bioinformatics (EBI). Each participant could submit up to three results for each sub-task comprising task 2. In total more than 15,000 individual results were provided by the participants. The curators evaluated in addition to the annotation itself, whether the protein and the GO term were correctly predicted and traceable through the submitted text fragment.
Concepts provided by GO are currently the most extended set of terms used for annotating gene products, thus they were explored to assess how effectively text mining tools are able to extract those annotations automatically. Although the obtained results are promising, they are still far from reaching the required performance demanded by real world applications. Among the principal difficulties encountered to address the proposed task, were the complex nature of the GO terms and protein names (the large range of variants which are used to express proteins and especially GO terms in free text), and the lack of a standard training set. A range of very different strategies were used to tackle this task. The dataset generated in line with the BioCreative challenge is publicly available and will allow new possibilities for training information extraction methods in the domain of molecular biology.
PMCID: PMC1869008  PMID: 15960828
18.  Transcript Annotation in FANTOM3: Mouse Gene Catalog Based on Physical cDNAs 
PLoS Genetics  2006;2(4):e62.
The international FANTOM consortium aims to produce a comprehensive picture of the mammalian transcriptome, based upon an extensive cDNA collection and functional annotation of full-length enriched cDNAs. The previous dataset, FANTOM2, comprised 60,770 full-length enriched cDNAs. Functional annotation revealed that this cDNA dataset contained only about half of the estimated number of mouse protein-coding genes, indicating that a number of cDNAs still remained to be collected and identified. To pursue the complete gene catalog that covers all predicted mouse genes, cloning and sequencing of full-length enriched cDNAs has been continued since FANTOM2. In FANTOM3, 42,031 newly isolated cDNAs were subjected to functional annotation, and the annotation of 4,347 FANTOM2 cDNAs was updated. To accomplish accurate functional annotation, we improved our automated annotation pipeline by introducing new coding sequence prediction programs and developed a Web-based annotation interface for simplifying the annotation procedures to reduce manual annotation errors. Automated coding sequence and function prediction was followed with manual curation and review by expert curators. A total of 102,801 full-length enriched mouse cDNAs were annotated. Out of 102,801 transcripts, 56,722 were functionally annotated as protein coding (including partial or truncated transcripts), providing to our knowledge the greatest current coverage of the mouse proteome by full-length cDNAs. The total number of distinct non-protein-coding transcripts increased to 34,030. The FANTOM3 annotation system, consisting of automated computational prediction, manual curation, and final expert curation, facilitated the comprehensive characterization of the mouse transcriptome, and could be applied to the transcriptomes of other species.
PMCID: PMC1449903  PMID: 16683036
19.  Structural and functional annotation of the porcine immunome 
BMC Genomics  2013;14:332.
The domestic pig is known as an excellent model for human immunology and the two species share many pathogens. Susceptibility to infectious disease is one of the major constraints on swine performance, yet the structure and function of genes comprising the pig immunome are not well-characterized. The completion of the pig genome provides the opportunity to annotate the pig immunome, and compare and contrast pig and human immune systems.
The Immune Response Annotation Group (IRAG) used computational curation and manual annotation of the swine genome assembly 10.2 (Sscrofa10.2) to refine the currently available automated annotation of 1,369 immunity-related genes through sequence-based comparison to genes in other species. Within these genes, we annotated 3,472 transcripts. Annotation provided evidence for gene expansions in several immune response families, and identified artiodactyl-specific expansions in the cathelicidin and type 1 Interferon families. We found gene duplications for 18 genes, including 13 immune response genes and five non-immune response genes discovered in the annotation process. Manual annotation provided evidence for many new alternative splice variants and 8 gene duplications. Over 1,100 transcripts without porcine sequence evidence were detected using cross-species annotation. We used a functional approach to discover and accurately annotate porcine immune response genes. A co-expression clustering analysis of transcriptomic data from selected experimental infections or immune stimulations of blood, macrophages or lymph nodes identified a large cluster of genes that exhibited a correlated positive response upon infection across multiple pathogens or immune stimuli. Interestingly, this gene cluster (cluster 4) is enriched for known general human immune response genes, yet contains many un-annotated porcine genes. A phylogenetic analysis of the encoded proteins of cluster 4 genes showed that 15% exhibited an accelerated evolution as compared to 4.1% across the entire genome.
This extensive annotation dramatically extends the genome-based knowledge of the molecular genetics and structure of a major portion of the porcine immunome. Our complementary functional approach using co-expression during immune response has provided new putative immune response annotation for over 500 porcine genes. Our phylogenetic analysis of this core immunome cluster confirms rapid evolutionary change in this set of genes, and that, as in other species, such genes are important components of the pig’s adaptation to pathogen challenge over evolutionary time. These comprehensive and integrated analyses increase the value of the porcine genome sequence and provide important tools for global analyses and data-mining of the porcine immune response.
PMCID: PMC3658956  PMID: 23676093
Immune response; Porcine; Genome annotation; Co-expression network; Phylogenetic analysis; Accelerated evolution
20.  An evaluation of GO annotation retrieval for BioCreAtIvE and GOA 
BMC Bioinformatics  2005;6(Suppl 1):S17.
The Gene Ontology Annotation (GOA) database aims to provide high-quality supplementary GO annotation to proteins in the UniProt Knowledgebase. Like many other biological databases, GOA gathers much of its content from the careful manual curation of literature. However, as both the volume of literature and of proteins requiring characterization increases, the manual processing capability can become overloaded.
Consequently, semi-automated aids are often employed to expedite the curation process. Traditionally, electronic techniques in GOA depend largely on exploiting the knowledge in existing resources such as InterPro. However, in recent years, text mining has been hailed as a potentially useful tool to aid the curation process.
To encourage the development of such tools, the GOA team at EBI agreed to take part in the functional annotation task of the BioCreAtIvE (Critical Assessment of Information Extraction systems in Biology) challenge.
BioCreAtIvE task 2 was an experiment to test if automatically derived classification using information retrieval and extraction could assist expert biologists in the annotation of the GO vocabulary to the proteins in the UniProt Knowledgebase.
GOA provided the training corpus of over 9000 manual GO annotations extracted from the literature. For the test set, we provided a corpus of 200 new Journal of Biological Chemistry articles used to annotate 286 human proteins with GO terms. A team of experts manually evaluated the results of 9 participating groups, each of which provided highlighted sentences to support their GO and protein annotation predictions. Here, we give a biological perspective on the evaluation, explain how we annotate GO using literature and offer some suggestions to improve the precision of future text-retrieval and extraction techniques. Finally, we provide the results of the first inter-annotator agreement study for manual GO curation, as well as an assessment of our current electronic GO annotation strategies.
The GOA database currently extracts GO annotation from the literature with 91 to 100% precision, and at least 72% recall. This creates a particularly high threshold for text mining systems which in BioCreAtIvE task 2 (GO annotation extraction and retrieval) initial results precisely predicted GO terms only 10 to 20% of the time.
Improvements in the performance and accuracy of text mining for GO terms should be expected in the next BioCreAtIvE challenge. In the meantime the manual and electronic GO annotation strategies already employed by GOA will provide high quality annotations.
PMCID: PMC1869009  PMID: 15960829
21.  Estimating the annotation error rate of curated GO database sequence annotations 
BMC Bioinformatics  2007;8:170.
Annotations that describe the function of sequences are enormously important to researchers during laboratory investigations and when making computational inferences. However, there has been little investigation into the data quality of sequence function annotations. Here we have developed a new method of estimating the error rate of curated sequence annotations, and applied this to the Gene Ontology (GO) sequence database (GOSeqLite). This method involved artificially adding errors to sequence annotations at known rates, and used regression to model the impact on the precision of annotations based on BLAST matched sequences.
We estimated the error rate of curated GO sequence annotations in the GOSeqLite database (March 2006) at between 28% and 30%. Annotations made without use of sequence similarity based methods (non-ISS) had an estimated error rate of between 13% and 18%. Annotations made with the use of sequence similarity methodology (ISS) had an estimated error rate of 49%.
While the overall error rate is reasonably low, it would be prudent to treat all ISS annotations with caution. Electronic annotators that use ISS annotations as the basis of predictions are likely to have higher false prediction rates, and for this reason designers of these systems should consider avoiding ISS annotations where possible. Electronic annotators that use ISS annotations to make predictions should be viewed sceptically. We recommend that curators thoroughly review ISS annotations before accepting them as valid. Overall, users of curated sequence annotations from the GO database should feel assured that they are using a comparatively high quality source of information.
PMCID: PMC1892569  PMID: 17519041
22.  The Ortholog Conjecture Is Untestable by the Current Gene Ontology but Is Supported by RNA Sequencing Data 
PLoS Computational Biology  2012;8(11):e1002784.
The ortholog conjecture posits that orthologous genes are functionally more similar than paralogous genes. This conjecture is a cornerstone of phylogenomics and is used daily by both computational and experimental biologists in predicting, interpreting, and understanding gene functions. A recent study, however, challenged the ortholog conjecture on the basis of experimentally derived Gene Ontology (GO) annotations and microarray gene expression data in human and mouse. It instead proposed that the functional similarity of homologous genes is primarily determined by the cellular context in which the genes act, explaining why a greater functional similarity of (within-species) paralogs than (between-species) orthologs was observed. Here we show that GO-based functional similarity between human and mouse orthologs, relative to that between paralogs, has been increasing in the last five years. Further, compared with paralogs, orthologs are less likely to be included in the same study, causing an underestimation in their functional similarity. A close examination of functional studies of homologs with identical protein sequences reveals experimental biases, annotation errors, and homology-based functional inferences that are labeled in GO as experimental. These problems and the temporary nature of the GO-based finding make the current GO inappropriate for testing the ortholog conjecture. RNA sequencing (RNA-Seq) is known to be superior to microarray for comparing the expressions of different genes or in different species. Our analysis of a large RNA-Seq dataset of multiple tissues from eight mammals and the chicken shows that the expression similarity between orthologs is significantly higher than that between within-species paralogs, supporting the ortholog conjecture and refuting the cellular context hypothesis for gene expression. We conclude that the ortholog conjecture remains largely valid to the extent that it has been tested, but further scrutiny using more and better functional data is needed.
Author Summary
Today's exceedingly high speed of genome sequencing, compared with the generally slow pace of functional assay, means that the functions of most genes identified from genome sequences will be annotated only through computational prediction. The primary source of information for this prediction is the functions of orthologous genes in model organisms, because orthologs are widely believed to be functionally similar, especially when compared with paralogs. This belief, known as the ortholog conjecture, was recently challenged on the basis of experimentally derived Gene Ontology (GO) annotations and microarray gene expression data, because these data revealed greater functional and expressional similarities of paralogs than orthologs. Here we show that GO-based estimates of functional similarities are temporary and unreliable, due to experimental biases, annotation errors, and homology-based functional inferences that are incorrectly labeled as experimental in GO. RNA sequencing (RNA-Seq) is superior to microarray for comparing the expressions of different genes or in different species, and our analysis of a large RNA-Seq dataset provides strong support to the ortholog conjecture for gene expression. We conclude that the ortholog conjecture remains largely valid to the extent that it has been tested, but further scrutiny using more and better functional data is needed.
PMCID: PMC3510086  PMID: 23209392
23.  The development of PIPA: an integrated and automated pipeline for genome-wide protein function annotation 
BMC Bioinformatics  2008;9:52.
Automated protein function prediction methods are needed to keep pace with high-throughput sequencing. With the existence of many programs and databases for inferring different protein functions, a pipeline that properly integrates these resources will benefit from the advantages of each method. However, integrated systems usually do not provide mechanisms to generate customized databases to predict particular protein functions. Here, we describe a tool termed PIPA (Pipeline for Protein Annotation) that has these capabilities.
PIPA annotates protein functions by combining the results of multiple programs and databases, such as InterPro and the Conserved Domains Database, into common Gene Ontology (GO) terms. The major algorithms implemented in PIPA are: (1) a profile database generation algorithm, which generates customized profile databases to predict particular protein functions, (2) an automated ontology mapping generation algorithm, which maps various classification schemes into GO, and (3) a consensus algorithm to reconcile annotations from the integrated programs and databases.
PIPA's profile generation algorithm is employed to construct the enzyme profile database CatFam, which predicts catalytic functions described by Enzyme Commission (EC) numbers. Validation tests show that CatFam yields average recall and precision larger than 95.0%. CatFam is integrated with PIPA.
We use an association rule mining algorithm to automatically generate mappings between terms of two ontologies from annotated sample proteins. Incorporating the ontologies' hierarchical topology into the algorithm increases the number of generated mappings. In particular, it generates 40.0% additional mappings from the Clusters of Orthologous Groups (COG) to EC numbers and a six-fold increase in mappings from COG to GO terms. The mappings to EC numbers show a very high precision (99.8%) and recall (96.6%), while the mappings to GO terms show moderate precision (80.0%) and low recall (33.0%).
Our consensus algorithm for GO annotation is based on the computation and propagation of likelihood scores associated with GO terms. The test results suggest that, for a given recall, the application of the consensus algorithm yields higher precision than when consensus is not used.
The algorithms implemented in PIPA provide automated genome-wide protein function annotation based on reconciled predictions from multiple resources.
PMCID: PMC2259298  PMID: 18221520
24.  Evaluation and integration of functional annotation pipelines for newly sequenced organisms: the potato genome as a test case 
BMC Plant Biology  2014;14(1):329.
For most organisms, even if their genome sequence is available, little functional information about individual genes or proteins exists. Several annotation pipelines have been developed for functional analysis based on sequence, ‘omics’, and literature data. However, researchers encounter little guidance on how well they perform. Here, we used the recently sequenced potato genome as a case study. The potato genome was selected since its genome is newly sequenced and it is a non-model plant even if there is relatively ample information on individual potato genes, and multiple gene expression profiles are available.
We show that the automatic gene annotations of potato have low accuracy when compared to a “gold standard” based on experimentally validated potato genes. Furthermore, we evaluate six state-of-the-art annotation pipelines and show that their predictions are markedly dissimilar (Jaccard similarity coefficient of 0.27 between pipelines on average). To overcome this discrepancy, we introduce a simple GO structure-based algorithm that reconciles the predictions of the different pipelines. We show that the integrated annotation covers more genes, increases by over 50% the number of highly co-expressed GO processes, and obtains much higher agreement with the gold standard.
We find that different annotation pipelines produce different results, and show how to integrate them into a unified annotation that is of higher quality than each single pipeline. We offer an improved functional annotation of both PGSC and ITAG potato gene models, as well as tools that can be applied to additional pipelines and improve annotation in other organisms. This will greatly aid future functional analysis of ‘-omics’ datasets from potato and other organisms with newly sequenced genomes. The new potato annotations are available with this paper.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12870-014-0329-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4274702  PMID: 25476999
Functional annotation; Gene ontology; Gene co-expression; Potato; Genomics
25.  Sequence Similarity Network Reveals Common Ancestry of Multidomain Proteins 
PLoS Computational Biology  2008;4(5):e1000063.
We address the problem of homology identification in complex multidomain families with varied domain architectures. The challenge is to distinguish sequence pairs that share common ancestry from pairs that share an inserted domain but are otherwise unrelated. This distinction is essential for accuracy in gene annotation, function prediction, and comparative genomics. There are two major obstacles to multidomain homology identification: lack of a formal definition and lack of curated benchmarks for evaluating the performance of new methods. We offer preliminary solutions to both problems: 1) an extension of the traditional model of homology to include domain insertions; and 2) a manually curated benchmark of well-studied families in mouse and human. We further present Neighborhood Correlation, a novel method that exploits the local structure of the sequence similarity network to identify homologs with great accuracy based on the observation that gene duplication and domain shuffling leave distinct patterns in the sequence similarity network. In a rigorous, empirical comparison using our curated data, Neighborhood Correlation outperforms sequence similarity, alignment length, and domain architecture comparison. Neighborhood Correlation is well suited for automated, genome-scale analyses. It is easy to compute, does not require explicit knowledge of domain architecture, and classifies both single and multidomain homologs with high accuracy. Homolog predictions obtained with our method, as well as our manually curated benchmark and a web-based visualization tool for exploratory analysis of the network neighborhood structure, are available at Our work represents a departure from the prevailing view that the concept of homology cannot be applied to genes that have undergone domain shuffling. In contrast to current approaches that either focus on the homology of individual domains or consider only families with identical domain architectures, we show that homology can be rationally defined for multidomain families with diverse architectures by considering the genomic context of the genes that encode them. Our study demonstrates the utility of mining network structure for evolutionary information, suggesting this is a fertile approach for investigating evolutionary processes in the post-genomic era.
Author Summary
New genes evolve through the duplication and modification of existing genes. As a result, genes that share common ancestry tend to have similar structure and function. Computational methods that use common ancestry have been extraordinarily successful in inferring function. The practice of discerning evolutionary relationships is stymied, however, by modular sequences made up of two or more domains. When two genes share some domains but not others, it is difficult to distinguish a case of common ancestry from insertion of the same domain into both genes. We present a formal framework to define how multidomain genes are related, and propose a novel method for rapid, robust characterization of evolutionary relationships. In an empirical comparison with the current state of the art, we demonstrate superior performance of our method using a large hand-curated set of sequences known to share common ancestry. The success of our method derives from its unique ability to infer evolutionary history from local topology in the sequence similarity network. This represents a departure from the view that protein family classification must be restricted to families with conserved architecture. By exploiting the structure of the sequence similarity network, our approach surmounts this limitation and opens the door to studies of the role of modularity in protein evolution.
PMCID: PMC2377100  PMID: 18475320

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