Metagenomics has transformed our understanding of the microbial world, allowing researchers to bypass the need to isolate and culture individual taxa and to directly characterize both the taxonomic and gene compositions of environmental samples. However, associating the genes found in a metagenomic sample with the specific taxa of origin remains a critical challenge. Existing binning methods, based on nucleotide composition or alignment to reference genomes allow only a coarse-grained classification and rely heavily on the availability of sequenced genomes from closely related taxa. Here, we introduce a novel computational framework, integrating variation in gene abundances across multiple samples with taxonomic abundance data to deconvolve metagenomic samples into taxa-specific gene profiles and to reconstruct the genomic content of community members. This assembly-free method is not bounded by various factors limiting previously described methods of metagenomic binning or metagenomic assembly and represents a fundamentally different approach to metagenomic-based genome reconstruction. An implementation of this framework is available at http://elbo.gs.washington.edu/software.html. We first describe the mathematical foundations of our framework and discuss considerations for implementing its various components. We demonstrate the ability of this framework to accurately deconvolve a set of metagenomic samples and to recover the gene content of individual taxa using synthetic metagenomic samples. We specifically characterize determinants of prediction accuracy and examine the impact of annotation errors on the reconstructed genomes. We finally apply metagenomic deconvolution to samples from the Human Microbiome Project, successfully reconstructing genus-level genomic content of various microbial genera, based solely on variation in gene count. These reconstructed genera are shown to correctly capture genus-specific properties. With the accumulation of metagenomic data, this deconvolution framework provides an essential tool for characterizing microbial taxa never before seen, laying the foundation for addressing fundamental questions concerning the taxa comprising diverse microbial communities.
Most microorganisms inhabit complex, diverse, and largely uncharacterized communities. Metagenomic technologies allow us to determine the taxonomic and gene compositions of these communities and to obtain insights into their function as a whole but usually do not enable the characterization of individual member taxa. Here, we introduce a novel computational framework for decomposing metagenomic community-level gene content data into taxa-specific gene profiles. Specifically, by analyzing the way taxonomic and gene abundances co-vary across a set of metagenomic samples, we are able to associate genes with their taxa of origin. We first demonstrate the ability of this approach to decompose metagenomes and to reconstruct the genomes of member taxa using simulated datasets. We further identify the factors that contribute to the accuracy of our method. We then apply our framework to samples from the human microbiome – the set of microorganisms that inhabit the human body – and show that it can be used to successfully reconstruct the typical genomes of various microbiome genera. Notably, our framework is based solely on variation in gene composition and does not rely on sequence composition signatures, assembly, or available reference genomes. It is therefore especially suited to studying the many microbial habitats yet to be extensively characterized.
A number of databases have been developed to collect disease-related molecular, phenotypic and environmental features (DR-MPEs), such as genes, non-coding RNAs, genetic variations, drugs, phenotypes and environmental factors. However, each of current databases focused on only one or two DR-MPEs. There is an urgent demand to develop an integrated database, which can establish semantic associations among disease-related databases and link them to provide a global view of human disease at the biological level. This database, once developed, will facilitate researchers to query various DR-MPEs through disease, and investigate disease mechanisms from different types of data.
To establish an integrated disease-associated database, disease vocabularies used in different databases are mapped to Disease Ontology (DO) through semantic match. 4,284 and 4,186 disease terms from Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) and Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man (OMIM) respectively are mapped to DO. Then, the relationships between DR-MPEs and diseases are extracted and merged from different source databases for reducing the data redundancy.
A semantically integrated disease-associated database (SIDD) is developed, which integrates 18 disease-associated databases, for researchers to browse multiple types of DR-MPEs in a view. A web interface allows easy navigation for querying information through browsing a disease ontology tree or searching a disease term. Furthermore, a network visualization tool using Cytoscape Web plugin has been implemented in SIDD. It enhances the SIDD usage when viewing the relationships between diseases and DR-MPEs. The current version of SIDD (Jul 2013) documents 4,465,131 entries relating to 139,365 DR-MPEs, and to 3,824 human diseases. The database can be freely accessed from: http://mlg.hit.edu.cn/SIDD.
Advances in genomic studies have led to significant progress in understanding the epigenetically controlled interplay between chromatin structure and nuclear functions. Epigenetic modifications were shown to play a key role in transcription regulation and genome activity during development and differentiation or in response to the environment. Paradoxically, the molecular mechanisms that regulate the initiation and the maintenance of the spatio-temporal replication program in higher eukaryotes, and in particular their links to epigenetic modifications, still remain elusive. By integrative analysis of the genome-wide distributions of thirteen epigenetic marks in the human cell line K562, at the 100 kb resolution of corresponding mean replication timing (MRT) data, we identify four major groups of chromatin marks with shared features. These states have different MRT, namely from early to late replicating, replication proceeds though a transcriptionally active euchromatin state (C1), a repressive type of chromatin (C2) associated with polycomb complexes, a silent state (C3) not enriched in any available marks, and a gene poor HP1-associated heterochromatin state (C4). When mapping these chromatin states inside the megabase-sized U-domains (U-shaped MRT profile) covering about 50% of the human genome, we reveal that the associated replication fork polarity gradient corresponds to a directional path across the four chromatin states, from C1 at U-domains borders followed by C2, C3 and C4 at centers. Analysis of the other genome half is consistent with early and late replication loci occurring in separate compartments, the former correspond to gene-rich, high-GC domains of intermingled chromatin states C1 and C2, whereas the latter correspond to gene-poor, low-GC domains of alternating chromatin states C3 and C4 or long C4 domains. This new segmentation sheds a new light on the epigenetic regulation of the spatio-temporal replication program in human and provides a framework for further studies in different cell types, in both health and disease.
Previous studies revealed spatially coherent and biological-meaningful chromatin mark combinations in human cells. Here, we analyze thirteen epigenetic mark maps in the human cell line K562 at 100 kb resolution of MRT data. The complexity of epigenetic data is reduced to four chromatin states that display remarkable similarities with those reported in fly, worm and plants. These states have different MRT: (C1) is transcriptionally active, early replicating, enriched in CTCF; (C2) is Polycomb repressed, mid-S replicating; (C3) lacks of marks and replicates late and (C4) is a late-replicating gene-poor HP1 repressed heterochromatin state. When mapping these states inside the 876 replication U-domains of K562, the replication fork polarity gradient observed in these U-domains comes along with a remarkable epigenetic organization from C1 at U-domain borders to C2, C3 and ultimately C4 at centers. The remaining genome half displays early replicating, gene rich and high GC domains of intermingled C1 and C2 states segregating from late replicating, gene poor and low GC domains of concatenated C3 and/or C4 states. This constitutes the first evidence of epigenetic compartmentalization of the human genome into replication domains likely corresponding to autonomous units in the 3D chromatin architecture.
The typical mitochondrial (mt) genomes of bilateral animals consist of 37 genes on a single circular chromosome. The mt genomes of the human body louse, Pediculus humanus, and the human head louse, Pediculus capitis, however, are extensively fragmented and contain 20 minichromosomes, with one to three genes on each minichromosome. Heteroplasmy, i.e. nucleotide polymorphisms in the mt genome within individuals, has been shown to be significantly higher in the mt cox1 gene of human lice than in humans and other animals that have the typical mt genomes. To understand whether the extent of heteroplasmy in human lice is associated with mt genome fragmentation, we sequenced the entire coding regions of all of the mt minichromosomes of six human body lice and six human head lice from Ethiopia, China and France with an Illumina HiSeq platform. For comparison, we also sequenced the entire coding regions of the mt genomes of seven species of ticks, which have the typical mitochondrial genome organization of bilateral animals. We found that the level of heteroplasmy varies significantly both among the human lice and among the ticks. The human lice from Ethiopia have significantly higher level of heteroplasmy than those from China and France (Pt<0.05). The tick, Amblyomma cajennense, has significantly higher level of heteroplasmy than other ticks (Pt<0.05). Our results indicate that heteroplasmy level can be substantially variable within a species and among closely related species, and does not appear to be determined by single factors such as genome fragmentation.
Science and engineering research has becoming an increasingly international phenomenon. Traditional bibliometric studies have not captured the evolution of collaborative partnerships between countries, particularly in emerging technologies such as stem cell science, in which an immense amount of investment has been made in the past decade. Analyzing over 2,800 articles from the top journals that include stem cell research in their publications, this study demonstrates the globalization of stem cell science. From 2000 to 2010, international collaborations increased from 20.9% to 36% of all stem cell publications analyzed. The United States remains the most prolific and the most dominant country in the field in terms of publications in high impact journals. But Asian countries, particularly China are steadily gaining ground. Exhibiting the largest relative growth, the percent of Chinese-authored stem cell papers grew more than ten-fold, while the percent of Chinese-authored international papers increased over seven times from 2000 to 2010. And while the percent of total stem cell publications exhibited modest growth for European countries, the percent of international publications increased more substantially, particularly in the United Kingdom. Overall, the data indicated that traditional networks of collaboration extant in 2000 still predominate in stem cell science. Although more nations are becoming involved in international collaborations and undertaking stem cell research, many of these efforts, with the exception of those in certain Asian countries, have yet to translate into publications in high impact journals.
Sequencing of equine mRNA (RNA-seq) identified 428 putative transcripts which do not map to any previously annotated or predicted horse genes. Most of these encode the equine homologs of known protein-coding genes described in other species, yet the potential exists to identify novel and perhaps equine-specific gene structures. A set of 36 transcripts were prioritized for further study by filtering for levels of expression (depth of RNA-seq read coverage), distance from annotated features in the equine genome, the number of putative exons, and patterns of gene expression between tissues. From these, four were selected for further investigation based on predicted open reading frames of greater than or equal to 50 amino acids and lack of detectable homology to known genes across species. Sanger sequencing of RT-PCR amplicons from additional equine samples confirmed expression and structural annotation of each transcript. Functional predictions were made by conserved domain searches. A single transcript, expressed in the cerebellum, contains a putative kruppel-associated box (KRAB) domain, suggesting a potential function associated with zinc finger proteins and transcriptional regulation. Overall levels of conserved synteny and sequence conservation across a 1MB region surrounding each transcript were approximately 73% compared to the human, canine, and bovine genomes; however, the four loci display some areas of low conservation and sequence inversion in regions that immediately flank these previously unannotated equine transcripts. Taken together, the evidence suggests that these four transcripts are likely to be equine-specific.
The introduction of two-dimension (2D) graphs and their numerical characterization for comparative analyses of DNA/RNA and protein sequences without the need of sequence alignments is an active yet recent research topic in bioinformatics. Here, we used a 2D artificial representation (four-color maps) with a simple numerical characterization through topological indices (TIs) to aid the discovering of remote homologous of Adenylation domains (A-domains) from the Nonribosomal Peptide Synthetases (NRPS) class in the proteome of the cyanobacteria Microcystis aeruginosa. Cyanobacteria are a rich source of structurally diverse oligopeptides that are predominantly synthesized by NPRS. Several A-domains share amino acid identities lower than 20 % being a possible source of remote homologous. Therefore, A-domains cannot be easily retrieved by BLASTp searches using a single template. To cope with the sequence diversity of the A-domains we have combined homology-search methods with an alignment-free tool that uses protein four-color-maps. TI2BioP (Topological Indices to
BioPolymers) version 2.0, available at http://ti2biop.sourceforge.net/ allowed the calculation of simple TIs from the protein sequences (four-color maps). Such TIs were used as input predictors for the statistical estimations required to build the alignment-free models. We concluded that the use of graphical/numerical approaches in cooperation with other sequence search methods, like multi-templates BLASTp and profile HMM, can give the most complete exploration of the repertoire of highly diverse protein families.
The functional interpretation of high throughput metabolomics by mass spectrometry is hindered by the identification of metabolites, a tedious and challenging task. We present a set of computational algorithms which, by leveraging the collective power of metabolic pathways and networks, predict functional activity directly from spectral feature tables without a priori identification of metabolites. The algorithms were experimentally validated on the activation of innate immune cells.
Mass spectrometry based untargeted metabolomics can now profile several thousand of metabolites simultaneously. However, these metabolites have to be identified before any biological meaning can be drawn from the data. Metabolite identification is a challenging and low throughput process, therefore becomes the bottleneck of the filed. We report here a novel approach to predict biological activity directly from mass spectrometry data without a priori identification of metabolites. By unifying network analysis and metabolite prediction under the same computational framework, the organization of metabolic networks and pathways helps resolve the ambiguity in metabolite prediction to a large extent. We validated our algorithms on a set of activation experiment of innate immune cells. The predicted activities were confirmed by both gene expression and metabolite identification. This method shall greatly accelerate the application of high throughput metabolomics, as the tedious task of identifying hundreds of metabolites upfront can be shifted to a handful of validation experiments after our computational prediction.
An understanding of bacterial diversity and evolution in any environment requires knowledge of phenotypic diversity. In this study, the underlying factors leading to phenotypic clustering were analyzed and interpreted using a novel approach based on a four-tiered graph. Bacterial isolates were organized into equivalence classes based on their phenotypic profile. Likewise, phenotypes were organized in equivalence classes based on the bacteria that manifest them. The linking of these equivalence classes in a four-tiered graph allowed for a quick visual identification of the phenotypic measurements leading to the clustering patterns deduced from principal component analyses. For evaluation of the method, we investigated phenotypic variation in enzyme production and carbon assimilation of members of the genera Pseudomonas and Serratia, isolated from the Aletsch Glacier in Switzerland. The analysis indicates that the genera isolated produce at least six common enzymes and can exploit a wide range of carbon resources, though some specialist species within the pseudomonads were also observed. We further found that pairwise distances between enzyme profiles strongly correlate with distances based on carbon profiles. However, phenotypic distances weakly correlate with phylogenetic distances. The method developed in this study facilitates a more comprehensive understanding of phenotypic clustering than what would be deduced from principal component analysis alone.
The protein secretory machinery in Eukarya is involved in post-translational modification (PTMs) and sorting of the secretory and many transmembrane proteins. While the secretory machinery has been well-studied using classic reductionist approaches, a holistic view of its complex nature is lacking. Here, we present the first genome-scale model for the yeast secretory machinery which captures the knowledge generated through more than 50 years of research. The model is based on the concept of a Protein Specific Information Matrix (PSIM: characterized by seven PTMs features). An algorithm was developed which mimics secretory machinery and assigns each secretory protein to a particular secretory class that determines the set of PTMs and transport steps specific to each protein. Protein abundances were integrated with the model in order to gain system level estimation of the metabolic demands associated with the processing of each specific protein as well as a quantitative estimation of the activity of each component of the secretory machinery.
Bivalves play vital roles in marine, brackish, freshwater and terrestrial habitats. In recent years, these ecosystems have become affected through anthropogenic activities. The ecological success of marine bivalves is based on the ability to modify their physiological functions in response to environmental changes. One of the most important mechanisms involved in adaptive responses to environmental and biological stresses is apoptosis, which has been scarcely studied in mollusks, although the final consequence of this process, DNA fragmentation, has been frequently used for pollution monitoring. Environmental stressors induce apoptosis in molluscan cells via an intrinsic pathway. Many of the proteins involved in vertebrate apoptosis have been recognized in model invertebrates; however, this process might not be universally conserved. Mytilus galloprovincialis is presented here as a new model to study the linkage between molecular mechanisms that mediate apoptosis and marine bivalve ecological adaptations. Therefore, it is strictly necessary to identify the key elements involved in bivalve apoptosis. In the present study, six mitochondrial apoptotic-related genes were characterized, and their gene expression profiles following UV irradiation were evaluated. This is the first step for the development of potential biomarkers to assess the biological responses of marine organisms to stress. The results confirmed that apoptosis and, more specifically, the expression of the genes involved in this process can be used to assess the biological responses of marine organisms to stress.
Fast and accurate detection of plant species and their hybrids using molecular tools will facilitate the assessment and monitoring of local biodiversity in an era of climate and environmental change. Herein, we evaluate the utility of the plastid trnL marker for species identification applied to Mediterranean pines (Pinus spp.). Our results indicate that trnL is a very sensitive marker for delimiting species biodiversity. Furthermore, High Resolution Melting (HRM) analysis was exploited as a molecular fingerprint for fast and accurate discrimination of Pinus spp. DNA sequence variants. The trnL approach and the HRM analyses were extended to wood samples of two species (Pinus nigra and Pinus sylvestris) with excellent results, congruent to those obtained using leaf tissue. Both analyses demonstrate that hybrids from the P. brutia (maternal parent) × P. halepensis (paternal parent) cross, exhibit the P. halepensis profile, confirming paternal plastid inheritance in Group Halepensis pines. Our study indicates that a single one-step reaction method and DNA marker are sufficient for the identification of Mediterranean pines, their hybrids and the origin of pine wood. Furthermore, our results underline the potential for certain DNA regions to be used as novel biological information markers combined with existing morphological characters and suggest a relatively reliable and open taxonomic system that can link DNA variation to phenotype-based species or hybrid assignment status and direct taxa identification from recalcitrant tissues such as wood samples.
Shotgun metagenomics has been applied to the studies of the functionality of various microbial communities. As a critical analysis step in these studies, biological pathways are reconstructed based on the genes predicted from metagenomic shotgun sequences. Pathway reconstruction provides insights into the functionality of a microbial community and can be used for comparing multiple microbial communities. The utilization of pathway reconstruction, however, can be jeopardized because of imperfect functional annotation of genes, and ambiguity in the assignment of predicted enzymes to biochemical reactions (e.g., some enzymes are involved in multiple biochemical reactions). Considering that metabolic functions in a microbial community are carried out by many enzymes in a collaborative manner, we present a probabilistic sampling approach to profiling functional content in a metagenomic dataset, by sampling functions of catalytically promiscuous enzymes within the context of the entire metabolic network defined by the annotated metagenome. We test our approach on metagenomic datasets from environmental and human-associated microbial communities. The results show that our approach provides a more accurate representation of the metabolic activities encoded in a metagenome, and thus improves the comparative analysis of multiple microbial communities. In addition, our approach reports likelihood scores of putative reactions, which can be used to identify important reactions and metabolic pathways that reflect the environmental adaptation of the microbial communities. Source code for sampling metabolic networks is available online at http://omics.informatics.indiana.edu/mg/MetaNetSam/.
We present a probabilistic sampling approach to profiling metabolic reactions in a microbial community from metagenomic shotgun reads, in an attempt to understand the metabolism within a microbial community and compare them across multiple communities. Different from the conventional pathway reconstruction approaches that aim at a definitive set of reactions, our method estimates how likely each annotated reaction can occur in the metabolism of the microbial community, given the shotgun sequencing data. This probabilistic measure improves our prediction of the actual metabolism in the microbial communities and can be used in the comparative functional analysis of metagenomic data.
The large size of metabolic networks entails an overwhelming multiplicity in the possible steady-state flux distributions that are compatible with stoichiometric constraints. This space of possibilities is largest in the frequent situation where the nutrients available to the cells are unknown. These two factors: network size and lack of knowledge of nutrient availability, challenge the identification of the actual metabolic state of living cells among the myriad possibilities. Here we address this challenge by developing a method that integrates gene-expression measurements with genome-scale models of metabolism as a means of inferring metabolic states. Our method explores the space of alternative flux distributions that maximize the agreement between gene expression and metabolic fluxes, and thereby identifies reactions that are likely to be active in the culture from which the gene-expression measurements were taken. These active reactions are used to build environment-specific metabolic models and to predict actual metabolic states. We applied our method to model the metabolic states of Saccharomyces cerevisiae growing in rich media supplemented with either glucose or ethanol as the main energy source. The resulting models comprise about 50% of the reactions in the original model, and predict environment-specific essential genes with high sensitivity. By minimizing the sum of fluxes while forcing our predicted active reactions to carry flux, we predicted the metabolic states of these yeast cultures that are in large agreement with what is known about yeast physiology. Most notably, our method predicts the Crabtree effect in yeast cells growing in excess glucose, a long-known phenomenon that could not have been predicted by traditional constraint-based modeling approaches. Our method is of immediate practical relevance for medical and industrial applications, such as the identification of novel drug targets, and the development of biotechnological processes that use complex, largely uncharacterized media, such as biofuel production.
Metabolic fluxes are steady-state rates of metabolite interconversion within living cells. They determine the rates of growth and product formation, and are of biotechnological and medical importance. An important and pressing question is how to identify the actual distribution of fluxes in living cells among the manifold possibilities that complex metabolic networks allow. One way to address this question is to constrain the space of possibilities using gene-expression measurements. Here we present a method that uses gene-expression measurements to infer the metabolic state of cells growing in uncharacterized environments. We applied this method to model the metabolism of Saccharomyces cerevisiae grown with glucose or ethanol as main energy source. Our modeling enables the prediction of genes that are essential for growth in either environment. We also show that our method predicts aspects of the energy metabolism of these cultures that are in large agreement with what is known about yeast physiology. Our method is of direct practical importance in the fields of biotechnology and medicine, such as in vivo drug target identification, where nutrient conditions are largely unknown.
The origin of metabolism has been linked to abiotic chemistries that existed in our planet at the beginning of life. While plausible chemical pathways have been proposed, including the synthesis of nucleobases, ribose and ribonucleotides, the cooption of these reactions by modern enzymes remains shrouded in mystery. Here we study the emergence of purine metabolism. The ages of protein domains derived from a census of fold family structure in hundreds of genomes were mapped onto enzymes in metabolic diagrams. We find that the origin of the nucleotide interconversion pathway benefited most parsimoniously from the prebiotic formation of adenine nucleosides. In turn, pathways of nucleotide biosynthesis, catabolism and salvage originated ∼300 million years later by concerted enzymatic recruitments and gradual replacement of abiotic chemistries. Remarkably, this process led to the emergence of the fully enzymatic biosynthetic pathway ∼3 billion years ago, concurrently with the appearance of a functional ribosome. The simultaneous appearance of purine biosynthesis and the ribosome probably fulfilled the expanding matter-energy and processing needs of genomic information.
We propose to combine a biomimetic navigation model which solves a simultaneous localization and mapping task with a biomimetic sonar mounted on a mobile robot to address two related questions. First, can robotic sonar sensing lead to intelligent interactions with complex environments? Second, can we model sonar based spatial orientation and the construction of spatial maps by bats? To address these questions we adapt the mapping module of RatSLAM, a previously published navigation system based on computational models of the rodent hippocampus. We analyze the performance of the proposed robotic implementation operating in the real world. We conclude that the biomimetic navigation model operating on the information from the biomimetic sonar allows an autonomous agent to map unmodified (office) environments efficiently and consistently. Furthermore, these results also show that successful navigation does not require the readings of the biomimetic sonar to be interpreted in terms of individual objects/landmarks in the environment. We argue that the system has applications in robotics as well as in the field of biology as a simple, first order, model for sonar based spatial orientation and map building.
Analyzing groups of functionally coupled genes or proteins in the context of global interaction networks has become an important aspect of bioinformatic investigations. Assessing the statistical significance of crosstalk enrichment between or within groups of genes can be a valuable tool for functional annotation of experimental gene sets.
Here we present CrossTalkZ, a statistical method and software to assess the significance of crosstalk enrichment between pairs of gene or protein groups in large biological networks. We demonstrate that the standard z-score is generally an appropriate and unbiased statistic. We further evaluate the ability of four different methods to reliably recover crosstalk within known biological pathways. We conclude that the methods preserving the second-order topological network properties perform best. Finally, we show how CrossTalkZ can be used to annotate experimental gene sets using known pathway annotations and that its performance at this task is superior to gene enrichment analysis (GEA).
Availability and Implementation
CrossTalkZ (available at http://sonnhammer.sbc.su.se/download/software/CrossTalkZ/) is implemented in C++, easy to use, fast, accepts various input file formats, and produces a number of statistics. These include z-score, p-value, false discovery rate, and a test of normality for the null distributions.
The zebrafish is becoming an increasingly popular model system for both automated drug discovery and investigating hypercholesterolemia. Here we combine these aspects and for the first time develop an automated high-content confocal assay for treatments of hypercholesterolemia. We also create two algorithms for automated analysis of cardiodynamic data acquired by high-speed confocal microscopy. The first algorithm computes cardiac parameters solely from the frequency-domain representation of cardiodynamic data while the second uses both frequency- and time-domain data. The combined approach resulted in smaller differences relative to manual measurements. The methods are implemented to test the ability of a methanolic extract of the hawthorn plant (Crataegus laevigata) to treat hypercholesterolemia and its peripheral cardiovascular effects. Results demonstrate the utility of these methods and suggest the extract has both antihypercholesterolemic and postitively inotropic properties.
Cellular activities are governed by the physical and the functional interactions among several proteins involved in various biological pathways. With the availability of sequenced genomes and high-throughput experimental data one can identify genome-wide protein-protein interactions using various computational techniques. Comparative assessments of these techniques in predicting protein interactions have been frequently reported in the literature but not their ability to elucidate a particular biological pathway.
Towards the goal of understanding the prediction capabilities of interactions among the specific biological pathway proteins, we report the analyses of 14 biological pathways of Escherichia coli catalogued in KEGG database using five protein-protein functional linkage prediction methods. These methods are phylogenetic profiling, gene neighborhood, co-presence of orthologous genes in the same gene clusters, a mirrortree variant, and expression similarity.
Our results reveal that the prediction of metabolic pathway protein interactions continues to be a challenging task for all methods which possibly reflect flexible/independent evolutionary histories of these proteins. These methods have predicted functional associations of proteins involved in amino acids, nucleotide, glycans and vitamins & co-factors pathways slightly better than the random performance on carbohydrate, lipid and energy metabolism. We also make similar observations for interactions involved among the environmental information processing proteins. On the contrary, genetic information processing or specialized processes such as motility related protein-protein linkages that occur in the subset of organisms are predicted with comparable accuracy. Metabolic pathways are best predicted by using neighborhood of orthologous genes whereas phyletic pattern is good enough to reconstruct central dogma pathway protein interactions. We have also shown that the effective use of a particular prediction method depends on the pathway under investigation. In case one is not focused on specific pathway, gene expression similarity method is the best option.
Phylogenetic profiles express the presence or absence of genes and their homologs across a number of reference genomes. They have emerged as an elegant representation framework for comparative genomics and have been used for the genome-wide inference and discovery of functionally linked genes or metabolic pathways. As the number of reference genomes grows, there is an acute need for faster and more accurate methods for phylogenetic profile analysis with increased performance in speed and quality. We propose a novel, efficient method for the detection of genomic idiosyncrasies, i.e. sets of genes found in a specific genome with peculiar phylogenetic properties, such as intra-genome correlations or inter-genome relationships. Our algorithm is a four-step process where genome profiles are first defined as fuzzy vectors, then discretized to binary vectors, followed by a de-noising step, and finally a comparison step to generate intra- and inter-genome distances for each gene profile. The method is validated with a carefully selected benchmark set of five reference genomes, using a range of approaches regarding similarity metrics and pre-processing stages for noise reduction. We demonstrate that the fuzzy profile method consistently identifies the actual phylogenetic relationship and origin of the genes under consideration for the majority of the cases, while the detected outliers are found to be particular genes with peculiar phylogenetic patterns. The proposed method provides a time-efficient and highly scalable approach for phylogenetic stratification, with the detected groups of genes being either similar to their own genome profile or different from it, thus revealing atypical evolutionary histories.
Differential gene expression in two sexes is widespread throughout the animal kingdom, giving rise to sex-dimorphic gene activities and sex-dependent adaptability to environmental cues, diets, growth and development as well as susceptibility to diseases. Here, we present a study using a toxicogenomic approach to investigate metabolic genes that show sex-dimorphic expression in the zebrafish liver triggered by several chemicals. Our analysis revealed that, besides the known genes for xenobiotic metabolism, many functionally diverse metabolic genes, such as ELOVL fatty acid elongase, DNA-directed RNA polymerase, and hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase, were also sex-dimorphic in their response to chemical treatments. Moreover, sex-dimorphic responses were also observed at the pathway level. Pathways belonging to xenobiotic metabolism, lipid metabolism, and nucleotide metabolism were enriched with sex-dimorphically expressed genes. We also observed temporal differences of the sex-dimorphic responses, suggesting that both genes and pathways are differently correlated during different periods of chemical perturbation. The ubiquity of sex-dimorphic activities at different biological hierarchies indicate the importance and the need of considering the sex factor in many areas of biological researches, especially in toxicology and pathology.
Research evaluation should take into account the intended scholarly and non-scholarly audiences of the research output. This holds too for research infrastructures, which often aim at serving a large variety of audiences. With research and research infrastructures moving to the web, new possibilities are emerging for evaluation metrics. This paper proposes a feasible indicator for measuring the scope of audiences who use web-based e-infrastructures, as well as the frequency of use. In order to apply this indicator, a method is needed for classifying visitors to e-infrastructures into relevant user categories. The paper proposes such a method, based on an inductive logic program and a Bayesian classifier. The method is tested, showing that the visitors are efficiently classified with 90% accuracy into the selected categories. Consequently, the method can be used to evaluate the use of the e-infrastructure within and outside academia.
We present a web-based network-construction system, CINPER (CSBL INteractive Pathway BuildER), to assist a user to build a user-specified gene network for a prokaryotic organism in an intuitive manner. CINPER builds a network model based on different types of information provided by the user and stored in the system. CINPER’s prediction process has four steps: (i) collection of template networks based on (partially) known pathways of related organism(s) from the SEED or BioCyc database and the published literature; (ii) construction of an initial network model based on the template networks using the P-Map program; (iii) expansion of the initial model, based on the association information derived from operons, protein-protein interactions, co-expression modules and phylogenetic profiles; and (iv) computational validation of the predicted models based on gene expression data. To facilitate easy applications, CINPER provides an interactive visualization environment for a user to enter, search and edit relevant data and for the system to display (partial) results and prompt for additional data. Evaluation of CINPER on 17 well-studied pathways in the MetaCyc database shows that the program achieves an average recall rate of 76% and an average precision rate of 90% on the initial models; and a higher average recall rate at 87% and an average precision rate at 28% on the final models. The reduced precision rate in the final models versus the initial models reflects the reality that the final models have large numbers of novel genes that have no experimental evidences and hence are not yet collected in the MetaCyc database. To demonstrate the usefulness of this server, we have predicted an iron homeostasis gene network of Synechocystis sp. PCC6803 using the server. The predicted models along with the server can be accessed at http://csbl.bmb.uga.edu/cinper/.
The goal of our work has been to investigate the mechanisms of gender-independent human skin ageing and examine the hypothesis of skin being an adequate model of global ageing. For this purpose, whole genome gene profiling was employed in sun-protected skin obtained from European Caucasian young and elderly females (mean age 26.7±4 years [n1 = 7] and 70.75±3.3 years [n2 = 4], respectively) and males (mean age 25.8±5.2 years [n3 = 6] and 76±3.8 years [n4 = 7], respectively) using the Illumina array platform. Confirmation of gene regulation was performed by real-time RT-PCR and immunohistochemistry. 523 genes were significantly regulated in female skin and 401 genes in male skin for the chosen criteria. Of these, 183 genes exhibited increased and 340 decreased expression in females whereas 210 genes showed increased and 191 decreased expression in males with age. In total, 39 genes were common in the target lists of significant regulated genes in males and females. 35 of these genes showed increased (16) or decreased (19) expression independent of gender. Only 4 overlapping genes (OR52N2, F6FR1OP2, TUBAL3 and STK40) showed differential regulation with age. Interestingly, Wnt signalling pathway showed to be significantly downregulated in aged skin with decreased gene and protein expression for males and females, accordingly. In addition, several genes involved in central nervous system (CNS) ageing (f.i. APP, TAU) showed to be expressed in human skin and were significanlty regulated with age. In conclusion, our study provides biomarkers of endogenous human skin ageing in both genders and highlight the role of Wnt signalling in this process. Furthermore, our data give evidence that skin could be used as a good alternative to understand ageing of different tissues such as CNS.
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.
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.