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1.  Current status and new features of the Consensus Coding Sequence database  
Nucleic Acids Research  2013;42(Database issue):D865-D872.
The Consensus Coding Sequence (CCDS) project ( is a collaborative effort to maintain a dataset of protein-coding regions that are identically annotated on the human and mouse reference genome assemblies by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) and Ensembl genome annotation pipelines. Identical annotations that pass quality assurance tests are tracked with a stable identifier (CCDS ID). Members of the collaboration, who are from NCBI, the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and the University of California Santa Cruz, provide coordinated and continuous review of the dataset to ensure high-quality CCDS representations. We describe here the current status and recent growth in the CCDS dataset, as well as recent changes to the CCDS web and FTP sites. These changes include more explicit reporting about the NCBI and Ensembl annotation releases being compared, new search and display options, the addition of biologically descriptive information and our approach to representing genes for which support evidence is incomplete. We also present a summary of recent and future curation targets.
PMCID: PMC3965069  PMID: 24217909
2.  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
3.  Comparison of RefSeq protein-coding regions in human and vertebrate genomes 
BMC Genomics  2013;14:654.
Advances in high-throughput sequencing technology have yielded a large number of publicly available vertebrate genomes, many of which are selected for inclusion in NCBI’s RefSeq project and subsequently processed by NCBI’s eukaryotic annotation pipeline. Genome annotation results are affected by differences in available support evidence and may be impacted by annotation pipeline software changes over time. The RefSeq project has not previously assessed annotation trends across organisms or over time. To address this deficiency, we have developed a comparative protocol which integrates analysis of annotated protein-coding regions across a data set of vertebrate orthologs in genomic sequence coordinates, protein sequences, and protein features.
We assessed an ortholog dataset that includes 34 annotated vertebrate RefSeq genomes including human. We confirm that RefSeq protein-coding gene annotations in mammals exhibit considerable similarity. Over 50% of the orthologous protein-coding genes in 20 organisms are supported at the level of splicing conservation with at least three selected reference genomes. Approximately 7,500 ortholog sets include at least half of the analyzed organisms, show highly similar sequence and conserved splicing, and may serve as a minimal set of mammalian “core proteins” for initial assessment of new mammalian genomes. Additionally, 80% of the proteins analyzed pass a suite of tests to detect proteins that lack splicing conservation and have unusual sequence or domain annotation. We use these tests to define an annotation quality metric that is based directly on the annotated proteins thus operates independently of other quality metrics such as availability of transcripts or assembly quality measures. Results are available on the RefSeq FTP site [].
Our multi-factored analysis demonstrates a high level of consistency in RefSeq protein representation among vertebrates. We find that the majority of the RefSeq vertebrate proteins for which we have calculated orthology are good as measured by these metrics. The process flow described provides specific information on the scope and degree of conservation for the analyzed protein sequences and annotations and will be used to enrich the quality of RefSeq records by identifying targets for further improvement in the computational annotation pipeline, and by flagging specific genes for manual curation.
PMCID: PMC3882889  PMID: 24063302
Genome annotation; RefSeq proteins; Protein quality assessment; Splice orthologs
4.  Manual annotation and analysis of the defensin gene cluster in the C57BL/6J mouse reference genome 
BMC Genomics  2009;10:606.
Host defense peptides are a critical component of the innate immune system. Human alpha- and beta-defensin genes are subject to copy number variation (CNV) and historically the organization of mouse alpha-defensin genes has been poorly defined. Here we present the first full manual genomic annotation of the mouse defensin region on Chromosome 8 of the reference strain C57BL/6J, and the analysis of the orthologous regions of the human and rat genomes. Problems were identified with the reference assemblies of all three genomes. Defensins have been studied for over two decades and their naming has become a critical issue due to incorrect identification of defensin genes derived from different mouse strains and the duplicated nature of this region.
The defensin gene cluster region on mouse Chromosome 8 A2 contains 98 gene loci: 53 are likely active defensin genes and 22 defensin pseudogenes. Several TATA box motifs were found for human and mouse defensin genes that likely impact gene expression. Three novel defensin genes belonging to the Cryptdin Related Sequences (CRS) family were identified. All additional mouse defensin loci on Chromosomes 1, 2 and 14 were annotated and unusual splice variants identified. Comparison of the mouse alpha-defensins in the three main mouse reference gene sets Ensembl, Mouse Genome Informatics (MGI), and NCBI RefSeq reveals significant inconsistencies in annotation and nomenclature. We are collaborating with the Mouse Genome Nomenclature Committee (MGNC) to establish a standardized naming scheme for alpha-defensins.
Prior to this analysis, there was no reliable reference gene set available for the mouse strain C57BL/6J defensin genes, demonstrating that manual intervention is still critical for the annotation of complex gene families and heavily duplicated regions. Accurate gene annotation is facilitated by the annotation of pseudogenes and regulatory elements. Manually curated gene models will be incorporated into the Ensembl and Consensus Coding Sequence (CCDS) reference sets. Elucidation of the genomic structure of this complex gene cluster on the mouse reference sequence, and adoption of a clear and unambiguous naming scheme, will provide a valuable tool to support studies on the evolution, regulatory mechanisms and biological functions of defensins in vivo.
PMCID: PMC2807441  PMID: 20003482
5.  Egas: a collaborative and interactive document curation platform 
With the overwhelming amount of biomedical textual information being produced, several manual curation efforts have been set up to extract and store concepts and their relationships into structured resources. As manual annotation is a demanding and expensive task, computerized solutions were developed to perform such tasks automatically. However, high-end information extraction techniques are still not widely used by biomedical research communities, mainly because of the lack of standards and limitations in usability. Interactive annotation tools intend to fill this gap, taking advantage of automatic techniques and existing knowledge bases to assist expert curators in their daily tasks. This article presents Egas, a web-based platform for biomedical text mining and assisted curation with highly usable interfaces for manual and automatic in-line annotation of concepts and relations. A comprehensive set of de facto standard knowledge bases are integrated and indexed to provide straightforward concept normalization features. Real-time collaboration and conversation functionalities allow discussing details of the annotation task as well as providing instant feedback of curator’s interactions. Egas also provides interfaces for on-demand management of the annotation task settings and guidelines, and supports standard formats and literature services to import and export documents. By taking advantage of Egas, we participated in the BioCreative IV interactive annotation task, targeting the assisted identification of protein–protein interactions described in PubMed abstracts related to neuropathological disorders. When evaluated by expert curators, it obtained positive scores in terms of usability, reliability and performance. These results, together with the provided innovative features, place Egas as a state-of-the-art solution for fast and accurate curation of information, facilitating the task of creating and updating knowledge bases and annotated resources.
Database URL:
PMCID: PMC4207226  PMID: 24923820
6.  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
7.  NCBI Reference Sequences (RefSeq): current status, new features and genome annotation policy 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;40(Database issue):D130-D135.
The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) Reference Sequence (RefSeq) database is a collection of genomic, transcript and protein sequence records. These records are selected and curated from public sequence archives and represent a significant reduction in redundancy compared to the volume of data archived by the International Nucleotide Sequence Database Collaboration. The database includes over 16 000 organisms, 2.4 × 106 genomic records, 13 × 106 proteins and 2 × 106 RNA records spanning prokaryotes, eukaryotes and viruses (RefSeq release 49, September 2011). The RefSeq database is maintained by a combined approach of automated analyses, collaboration and manual curation to generate an up-to-date representation of the sequence, its features, names and cross-links to related sources of information. We report here on recent growth, the status of curating the human RefSeq data set, more extensive feature annotation and current policy for eukaryotic genome annotation via the NCBI annotation pipeline. More information about the resource is available online (see
PMCID: PMC3245008  PMID: 22121212
8.  Characterization of full-length sequenced cDNA inserts (FLIcs) from Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) 
BMC Genomics  2009;10:502.
Sequencing of the Atlantic salmon genome is now being planned by an international research consortium. Full-length sequenced inserts from cDNAs (FLIcs) are an important tool for correct annotation and clustering of the genomic sequence in any species. The large amount of highly similar duplicate sequences caused by the relatively recent genome duplication in the salmonid ancestor represents a particular challenge for the genome project. FLIcs will therefore be an extremely useful resource for the Atlantic salmon sequencing project. In addition to be helpful in order to distinguish between duplicate genome regions and in determining correct gene structures, FLIcs are an important resource for functional genomic studies and for investigation of regulatory elements controlling gene expression. In contrast to the large number of ESTs available, including the ESTs from 23 developmental and tissue specific cDNA libraries contributed by the Salmon Genome Project (SGP), the number of sequences where the full-length of the cDNA insert has been determined has been small.
High quality full-length insert sequences from 560 pre-smolt white muscle tissue specific cDNAs were generated, accession numbers [GenBank: BT043497 - BT044056]. Five hundred and ten (91%) of the transcripts were annotated using Gene Ontology (GO) terms and 440 of the FLIcs are likely to contain a complete coding sequence (cCDS). The sequence information was used to identify putative paralogs, characterize salmon Kozak motifs, polyadenylation signal variation and to identify motifs likely to be involved in the regulation of particular genes. Finally, conserved 7-mers in the 3'UTRs were identified, of which some were identical to miRNA target sequences.
This paper describes the first Atlantic salmon FLIcs from a tissue and developmental stage specific cDNA library. We have demonstrated that many FLIcs contained a complete coding sequence (cCDS). This suggests that the remaining cDNA libraries generated by SGP represent a valuable cCDS FLIc source. The conservation of 7-mers in 3'UTRs indicates that these motifs are functionally important. Identity between some of these 7-mers and miRNA target sequences suggests that they are miRNA targets in Salmo salar transcripts as well.
PMCID: PMC2774873  PMID: 19878547
9.  Ontology application and use at the ENCODE DCC 
The Encyclopedia of DNA elements (ENCODE) project is an ongoing collaborative effort to create a catalog of genomic annotations. To date, the project has generated over 4000 experiments across more than 350 cell lines and tissues using a wide array of experimental techniques to study the chromatin structure, regulatory network and transcriptional landscape of the Homo sapiens and Mus musculus genomes. All ENCODE experimental data, metadata and associated computational analyses are submitted to the ENCODE Data Coordination Center (DCC) for validation, tracking, storage and distribution to community resources and the scientific community. As the volume of data increases, the organization of experimental details becomes increasingly complicated and demands careful curation to identify related experiments. Here, we describe the ENCODE DCC’s use of ontologies to standardize experimental metadata. We discuss how ontologies, when used to annotate metadata, provide improved searching capabilities and facilitate the ability to find connections within a set of experiments. Additionally, we provide examples of how ontologies are used to annotate ENCODE metadata and how the annotations can be identified via ontology-driven searches at the ENCODE portal. As genomic datasets grow larger and more interconnected, standardization of metadata becomes increasingly vital to allow for exploration and comparison of data between different scientific projects.
Database URL:
PMCID: PMC4360730  PMID: 25776021
10.  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
11.  Annotation of phenotypic diversity: decoupling data curation and ontology curation using Phenex 
Phenex ( is a desktop application for semantically annotating the phenotypic character matrix datasets common in evolutionary biology. Since its initial publication, we have added new features that address several major bottlenecks in the efficiency of the phenotype curation process: allowing curators during the data curation phase to provisionally request terms that are not yet available from a relevant ontology; supporting quality control against annotation guidelines to reduce later manual review and revision; and enabling the sharing of files for collaboration among curators.
We decoupled data annotation from ontology development by creating an Ontology Request Broker (ORB) within Phenex. Curators can use the ORB to request a provisional term for use in data annotation; the provisional term can be automatically replaced with a permanent identifier once the term is added to an ontology. We added a set of annotation consistency checks to prevent common curation errors, reducing the need for later correction. We facilitated collaborative editing by improving the reliability of Phenex when used with online folder sharing services, via file change monitoring and continual autosave.
With the addition of these new features, and in particular the Ontology Request Broker, Phenex users have been able to focus more effectively on data annotation. Phenoscape curators using Phenex have reported a smoother annotation workflow, with much reduced interruptions from ontology maintenance and file management issues.
PMCID: PMC4236444  PMID: 25411634
Annotation; Phenotypes; Ontology; Curation; Systematics; Character matrix
12.  Scaling drug indication curation through crowdsourcing 
Motivated by the high cost of human curation of biological databases, there is an increasing interest in using computational approaches to assist human curators and accelerate the manual curation process. Towards the goal of cataloging drug indications from FDA drug labels, we recently developed LabeledIn, a human-curated drug indication resource for 250 clinical drugs. Its development required over 40 h of human effort across 20 weeks, despite using well-defined annotation guidelines. In this study, we aim to investigate the feasibility of scaling drug indication annotation through a crowdsourcing technique where an unknown network of workers can be recruited through the technical environment of Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk). To translate the expert-curation task of cataloging indications into human intelligence tasks (HITs) suitable for the average workers on MTurk, we first simplify the complex task such that each HIT only involves a worker making a binary judgment of whether a highlighted disease, in context of a given drug label, is an indication. In addition, this study is novel in the crowdsourcing interface design where the annotation guidelines are encoded into user options. For evaluation, we assess the ability of our proposed method to achieve high-quality annotations in a time-efficient and cost-effective manner. We posted over 3000 HITs drawn from 706 drug labels on MTurk. Within 8 h of posting, we collected 18 775 judgments from 74 workers, and achieved an aggregated accuracy of 96% on 450 control HITs (where gold-standard answers are known), at a cost of $1.75 per drug label. On the basis of these results, we conclude that our crowdsourcing approach not only results in significant cost and time saving, but also leads to accuracy comparable to that of domain experts.
Database URL:
PMCID: PMC4369375  PMID: 25797061
13.  RefSeq: an update on mammalian reference sequences 
Nucleic Acids Research  2013;42(Database issue):D756-D763.
The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) Reference Sequence (RefSeq) database is a collection of annotated genomic, transcript and protein sequence records derived from data in public sequence archives and from computation, curation and collaboration ( We report here on growth of the mammalian and human subsets, changes to NCBI’s eukaryotic annotation pipeline and modifications affecting transcript and protein records. Recent changes to NCBI’s eukaryotic genome annotation pipeline provide higher throughput, and the addition of RNAseq data to the pipeline results in a significant expansion of the number of transcripts and novel exons annotated on mammalian RefSeq genomes. Recent annotation changes include reporting supporting evidence for transcript records, modification of exon feature annotation and the addition of a structured report of gene and sequence attributes of biological interest. We also describe a revised protein annotation policy for alternatively spliced transcripts with more divergent predicted proteins and we summarize the current status of the RefSeqGene project.
PMCID: PMC3965018  PMID: 24259432
14.  AISO: Annotation of Image Segments with Ontologies 
Large quantities of digital images are now generated for biological collections, including those developed in projects premised on the high-throughput screening of genome-phenome experiments. These images often carry annotations on taxonomy and observable features, such as anatomical structures and phenotype variations often recorded in response to the environmental factors under which the organisms were sampled. At present, most of these annotations are described in free text, may involve limited use of non-standard vocabularies, and rarely specify precise coordinates of features on the image plane such that a computer vision algorithm could identify, extract and annotate them. Therefore, researchers and curators need a tool that can identify and demarcate features in an image plane and allow their annotation with semantically contextual ontology terms. Such a tool would generate data useful for inter and intra-specific comparison and encourage the integration of curation standards. In the future, quality annotated image segments may provide training data sets for developing machine learning applications for automated image annotation.
We developed a novel image segmentation and annotation software application, “Annotation of Image Segments with Ontologies” (AISO). The tool enables researchers and curators to delineate portions of an image into multiple highlighted segments and annotate them with an ontology-based controlled vocabulary. AISO is a freely available Java-based desktop application and runs on multiple platforms. It can be downloaded at
AISO enables curators and researchers to annotate digital images with ontology terms in a manner which ensures the future computational value of the annotated images. We foresee uses for such data-encoded image annotations in biological data mining, machine learning, predictive annotation, semantic inference, and comparative analyses.
PMCID: PMC4290088  PMID: 25584184
Image annotation; Semantic web; Plant ontology; Image segmentation; Plant anatomy; Web services; Computer vision; Image curation; Machine learning
15.  A Manual Curation Strategy to Improve Genome Annotation: Application to a Set of Haloarchael Genomes 
Life  2015;5(2):1427-1444.
Genome annotation errors are a persistent problem that impede research in the biosciences. A manual curation effort is described that attempts to produce high-quality genome annotations for a set of haloarchaeal genomes (Halobacterium salinarum and Hbt. hubeiense, Haloferax volcanii and Hfx. mediterranei, Natronomonas pharaonis and Nmn. moolapensis, Haloquadratum walsbyi strains HBSQ001 and C23, Natrialba magadii, Haloarcula marismortui and Har. hispanica, and Halohasta litchfieldiae). Genomes are checked for missing genes, start codon misassignments, and disrupted genes. Assignments of a specific function are preferably based on experimentally characterized homologs (Gold Standard Proteins). To avoid overannotation, which is a major source of database errors, we restrict annotation to only general function assignments when support for a specific substrate assignment is insufficient. This strategy results in annotations that are resistant to the plethora of errors that compromise public databases. Annotation consistency is rigorously validated for ortholog pairs from the genomes surveyed. The annotation is regularly crosschecked against the UniProt database to further improve annotations and increase the level of standardization. Enhanced genome annotations are submitted to public databases (EMBL/GenBank, UniProt), to the benefit of the scientific community. The enhanced annotations are also publically available via HaloLex.
PMCID: PMC4500146  PMID: 26042526
genome annotation; Gold Standard Protein; Halobacteria; halophilic archaea; manual curation
16.  Gene models from ESTs (GeneModelEST): an application on the Solanum lycopersicum genome 
BMC Bioinformatics  2007;8(Suppl 1):S9.
The structure annotation of a genome is based either on ab initio methodologies or on similaritiy searches versus molecules that have been already annotated. Ab initio gene predictions in a genome are based on a priori knowledge of species-specific features of genes. The training of ab initio gene finders is based on the definition of a data-set of gene models. To accomplish this task the common approach is to align species-specific full length cDNA and EST sequences along the genomic sequences in order to define exon/intron structure of mRNA coding genes.
GeneModelEST is the software here proposed for defining a data-set of candidate gene models using exclusively evidence derived from cDNA/EST sequences.
GeneModelEST requires the genome coordinates of the spliced-alignments of ESTs and of contigs (tentative consensus sequences) generated by an EST clustering/assembling procedure to be formatted in a General Feature Format (GFF) standard file. Moreover, the alignments of the contigs versus a protein database are required as an NCBI BLAST formatted report file.
The GeneModelEST analysis aims to i) evaluate each exon as defined from contig spliced alignments onto the genome sequence; ii) classify the contigs according to quality levels in order to select candidate gene models; iii) assign to the candidate gene models preliminary functional annotations.
We discuss the application of the proposed methodology to build a data-set of gene models of Solanum lycopersicum, whose genome sequencing is an ongoing effort by the International Tomato Genome Sequencing Consortium.
The contig classification procedure used by GeneModelEST supports the detection of candidate gene models, the identification of potential alternative transcripts and it is useful to filter out ambiguous information. An automated procedure, such as the one proposed here, is fundamental to support large scale analysis in order to provide species-specific gene models, that could be useful as a training data-set for ab initio gene finders and/or as a reference gene list for a human curated annotation.
PMCID: PMC1885861  PMID: 17430576
17.  Bovine Genome Database: supporting community annotation and analysis of the Bos taurus genome 
BMC Genomics  2010;11:645.
A goal of the Bovine Genome Database (BGD; has been to support the Bovine Genome Sequencing and Analysis Consortium (BGSAC) in the annotation and analysis of the bovine genome. We were faced with several challenges, including the need to maintain consistent quality despite diversity in annotation expertise in the research community, the need to maintain consistent data formats, and the need to minimize the potential duplication of annotation effort. With new sequencing technologies allowing many more eukaryotic genomes to be sequenced, the demand for collaborative annotation is likely to increase. Here we present our approach, challenges and solutions facilitating a large distributed annotation project.
Results and Discussion
BGD has provided annotation tools that supported 147 members of the BGSAC in contributing 3,871 gene models over a fifteen-week period, and these annotations have been integrated into the bovine Official Gene Set. Our approach has been to provide an annotation system, which includes a BLAST site, multiple genome browsers, an annotation portal, and the Apollo Annotation Editor configured to connect directly to our Chado database. In addition to implementing and integrating components of the annotation system, we have performed computational analyses to create gene evidence tracks and a consensus gene set, which can be viewed on individual gene pages at BGD.
We have provided annotation tools that alleviate challenges associated with distributed annotation. Our system provides a consistent set of data to all annotators and eliminates the need for annotators to format data. Involving the bovine research community in genome annotation has allowed us to leverage expertise in various areas of bovine biology to provide biological insight into the genome sequence.
PMCID: PMC3012608  PMID: 21092105
18.  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
19.  NCBI Reference Sequences: current status, policy and new initiatives 
Nucleic Acids Research  2008;37(Database issue):D32-D36.
NCBI's Reference Sequence (RefSeq) database ( is a curated non-redundant collection of sequences representing genomes, transcripts and proteins. RefSeq records integrate information from multiple sources and represent a current description of the sequence, the gene and sequence features. The database includes over 5300 organisms spanning prokaryotes, eukaryotes and viruses, with records for more than 5.5 × 106 proteins (RefSeq release 30). Feature annotation is applied by a combination of curation, collaboration, propagation from other sources and computation. We report here on the recent growth of the database, recent changes to feature annotations and record types for eukaryotic (primarily vertebrate) species and policies regarding species inclusion and genome annotation. In addition, we introduce RefSeqGene, a new initiative to support reporting variation data on a stable genomic coordinate system.
PMCID: PMC2686572  PMID: 18927115
20.  An overview of the BioCreative 2012 Workshop Track III: interactive text mining task 
In many databases, biocuration primarily involves literature curation, which usually involves retrieving relevant articles, extracting information that will translate into annotations and identifying new incoming literature. As the volume of biological literature increases, the use of text mining to assist in biocuration becomes increasingly relevant. A number of groups have developed tools for text mining from a computer science/linguistics perspective, and there are many initiatives to curate some aspect of biology from the literature. Some biocuration efforts already make use of a text mining tool, but there have not been many broad-based systematic efforts to study which aspects of a text mining tool contribute to its usefulness for a curation task. Here, we report on an effort to bring together text mining tool developers and database biocurators to test the utility and usability of tools. Six text mining systems presenting diverse biocuration tasks participated in a formal evaluation, and appropriate biocurators were recruited for testing. The performance results from this evaluation indicate that some of the systems were able to improve efficiency of curation by speeding up the curation task significantly (∼1.7- to 2.5-fold) over manual curation. In addition, some of the systems were able to improve annotation accuracy when compared with the performance on the manually curated set. In terms of inter-annotator agreement, the factors that contributed to significant differences for some of the systems included the expertise of the biocurator on the given curation task, the inherent difficulty of the curation and attention to annotation guidelines. After the task, annotators were asked to complete a survey to help identify strengths and weaknesses of the various systems. The analysis of this survey highlights how important task completion is to the biocurators’ overall experience of a system, regardless of the system’s high score on design, learnability and usability. In addition, strategies to refine the annotation guidelines and systems documentation, to adapt the tools to the needs and query types the end user might have and to evaluate performance in terms of efficiency, user interface, result export and traditional evaluation metrics have been analyzed during this task. This analysis will help to plan for a more intense study in BioCreative IV.
PMCID: PMC3625048  PMID: 23327936
21.  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
22.  CvManGO, a method for leveraging computational predictions to improve literature-based Gene Ontology annotations 
The set of annotations at the Saccharomyces Genome Database (SGD) that classifies the cellular function of S. cerevisiae gene products using Gene Ontology (GO) terms has become an important resource for facilitating experimental analysis. In addition to capturing and summarizing experimental results, the structured nature of GO annotations allows for functional comparison across organisms as well as propagation of functional predictions between related gene products. Due to their relevance to many areas of research, ensuring the accuracy and quality of these annotations is a priority at SGD. GO annotations are assigned either manually, by biocurators extracting experimental evidence from the scientific literature, or through automated methods that leverage computational algorithms to predict functional information. Here, we discuss the relationship between literature-based and computationally predicted GO annotations in SGD and extend a strategy whereby comparison of these two types of annotation identifies genes whose annotations need review. Our method, CvManGO (Computational versus Manual GO annotations), pairs literature-based GO annotations with computational GO predictions and evaluates the relationship of the two terms within GO, looking for instances of discrepancy. We found that this method will identify genes that require annotation updates, taking an important step towards finding ways to prioritize literature review. Additionally, we explored factors that may influence the effectiveness of CvManGO in identifying relevant gene targets to find in particular those genes that are missing literature-supported annotations, but our survey found that there are no immediately identifiable criteria by which one could enrich for these under-annotated genes. Finally, we discuss possible ways to improve this strategy, and the applicability of this method to other projects that use the GO for curation.
Database URL:
PMCID: PMC3308158  PMID: 22434836
23.  Improving links between literature and biological data with text mining: a case study with GEO, PDB and MEDLINE 
High-throughput experiments and bioinformatics techniques are creating an exploding volume of data that are becoming overwhelming to keep track of for biologists and researchers who need to access, analyze and process existing data. Much of the available data are being deposited in specialized databases, such as the Gene Expression Omnibus (GEO) for microarrays or the Protein Data Bank (PDB) for protein structures and coordinates. Data sets are also being described by their authors in publications archived in literature databases such as MEDLINE and PubMed Central. Currently, the curation of links between biological databases and the literature mainly relies on manual labour, which makes it a time-consuming and daunting task. Herein, we analysed the current state of link curation between GEO, PDB and MEDLINE. We found that the link curation is heterogeneous depending on the sources and databases involved, and that overlap between sources is low, <50% for PDB and GEO. Furthermore, we showed that text-mining tools can automatically provide valuable evidence to help curators broaden the scope of articles and database entries that they review. As a result, we made recommendations to improve the coverage of curated links, as well as the consistency of information available from different databases while maintaining high-quality curation.
Database URLs:,,
PMCID: PMC3371192  PMID: 22685160
24.  DFLAT: functional annotation for human development 
BMC Bioinformatics  2014;15:45.
Recent increases in genomic studies of the developing human fetus and neonate have led to a need for widespread characterization of the functional roles of genes at different developmental stages. The Gene Ontology (GO), a valuable and widely-used resource for characterizing gene function, offers perhaps the most suitable functional annotation system for this purpose. However, due in part to the difficulty of studying molecular genetic effects in humans, even the current collection of comprehensive GO annotations for human genes and gene products often lacks adequate developmental context for scientists wishing to study gene function in the human fetus.
The Developmental FunctionaL Annotation at Tufts (DFLAT) project aims to improve the quality of analyses of fetal gene expression and regulation by curating human fetal gene functions using both manual and semi-automated GO procedures. Eligible annotations are then contributed to the GO database and included in GO releases of human data. DFLAT has produced a considerable body of functional annotation that we demonstrate provides valuable information about developmental genomics. A collection of gene sets (genes implicated in the same function or biological process), made by combining existing GO annotations with the 13,344 new DFLAT annotations, is available for use in novel analyses. Gene set analyses of expression in several data sets, including amniotic fluid RNA from fetuses with trisomies 21 and 18, umbilical cord blood, and blood from newborns with bronchopulmonary dysplasia, were conducted both with and without the DFLAT annotation.
Functional analysis of expression data using the DFLAT annotation increases the number of implicated gene sets, reflecting the DFLAT’s improved representation of current knowledge. Blinded literature review supports the validity of newly significant findings obtained with the DFLAT annotations. Newly implicated significant gene sets also suggest specific hypotheses for future research. Overall, the DFLAT project contributes new functional annotation and gene sets likely to enhance our ability to interpret genomic studies of human fetal and neonatal development.
PMCID: PMC3928322  PMID: 24507166
Human development; Functional annotation; Databases; Gene function; Fetal; Neonatal; Gene set analysis
25.  Matching curated genome databases: a non trivial task 
BMC Genomics  2008;9:501.
Curated databases of completely sequenced genomes have been designed independently at the NCBI (RefSeq) and EBI (Genome Reviews) to cope with non-standard annotation found in the version of the sequenced genome that has been published by databanks GenBank/EMBL/DDBJ. These curation attempts were expected to review the annotations and to improve their pertinence when using them to annotate newly released genome sequences by homology to previously annotated genomes. However, we observed that such an uncoordinated effort has two unwanted consequences. First, it is not trivial to map the protein identifiers of the same sequence in both databases. Secondly, the two reannotated versions of the same genome differ at the level of their structural annotation.
Here, we propose CorBank, a program devised to provide cross-referencing protein identifiers no matter what the level of identity is found between their matching sequences. Approximately 98% of the 1,983,258 amino acid sequences are matching, allowing instantaneous retrieval of their respective cross-references. CorBank further allows detecting any differences between the independently curated versions of the same genome. We found that the RefSeq and Genome Reviews versions are perfectly matching for only 50 of the 641 complete genomes we have analyzed. In all other cases there are differences occurring at the level of the coding sequence (CDS), and/or in the total number of CDS in the respective version of the same genome.
CorBank is freely accessible at . The CorBank site contains also updated publication of the exhaustive results obtained by comparing RefSeq and Genome Reviews versions of each genome. Accordingly, this web site allows easy search of cross-references between RefSeq, Genome Reviews, and UniProt, for either a single CDS or a whole replicon.
CorBank is very efficient in rapid detection of the numerous differences existing between RefSeq and Genome Reviews versions of the same curated genome. Although such differences are acceptable as reflecting different views, we suggest that curators of both genome databases could help reducing further divergence by agreeing on a minimal dialogue and attempting to publish the point of view of the other database whenever it is technically possible.
PMCID: PMC2596144  PMID: 18950477

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