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1.  Best practices in bioinformatics training for life scientists 
Briefings in Bioinformatics  2013;14(5):528-537.
The mountains of data thrusting from the new landscape of modern high-throughput biology are irrevocably changing biomedical research and creating a near-insatiable demand for training in data management and manipulation and data mining and analysis. Among life scientists, from clinicians to environmental researchers, a common theme is the need not just to use, and gain familiarity with, bioinformatics tools and resources but also to understand their underlying fundamental theoretical and practical concepts. Providing bioinformatics training to empower life scientists to handle and analyse their data efficiently, and progress their research, is a challenge across the globe. Delivering good training goes beyond traditional lectures and resource-centric demos, using interactivity, problem-solving exercises and cooperative learning to substantially enhance training quality and learning outcomes. In this context, this article discusses various pragmatic criteria for identifying training needs and learning objectives, for selecting suitable trainees and trainers, for developing and maintaining training skills and evaluating training quality. Adherence to these criteria may help not only to guide course organizers and trainers on the path towards bioinformatics training excellence but, importantly, also to improve the training experience for life scientists.
PMCID: PMC3771230  PMID: 23803301
bioinformatics; training; bioinformatics courses; training life scientists; train the trainers
2.  Bioinformatics Training Network (BTN): a community resource for bioinformatics trainers 
Briefings in Bioinformatics  2011;13(3):383-389.
Funding bodies are increasingly recognizing the need to provide graduates and researchers with access to short intensive courses in a variety of disciplines, in order both to improve the general skills base and to provide solid foundations on which researchers may build their careers. In response to the development of ‘high-throughput biology’, the need for training in the field of bioinformatics, in particular, is seeing a resurgence: it has been defined as a key priority by many Institutions and research programmes and is now an important component of many grant proposals. Nevertheless, when it comes to planning and preparing to meet such training needs, tension arises between the reward structures that predominate in the scientific community which compel individuals to publish or perish, and the time that must be devoted to the design, delivery and maintenance of high-quality training materials. Conversely, there is much relevant teaching material and training expertise available worldwide that, were it properly organized, could be exploited by anyone who needs to provide training or needs to set up a new course. To do this, however, the materials would have to be centralized in a database and clearly tagged in relation to target audiences, learning objectives, etc. Ideally, they would also be peer reviewed, and easily and efficiently accessible for downloading. Here, we present the Bioinformatics Training Network (BTN), a new enterprise that has been initiated to address these needs and review it, respectively, to similar initiatives and collections.
PMCID: PMC3357490  PMID: 22110242
Bioinformatics; training; end users; bioinformatics courses; learning bioinformatics
3.  Expressed sequence tags of the peanut pod nematode Ditylenchus africanus: the first transcriptome analysis of an Anguinid nematode 
In this study, 4847 expressed sequenced tags (ESTs) from mixed stages of the migratory plant-parasitic nematode Ditylenchus africanus (peanut pod nematode) were investigated. It is the first molecular survey of a nematode which belongs to the family of the Anguinidae (order Rhabditida, superfamily Sphaerularioidea). The sequences were clustered into 2596 unigenes, of which 43% did not show any homology to known protein, nucleotide, nematode EST or plant-parasitic nematode genome sequences. Gene ontology mapping revealed that most putative proteins are involved in developmental and reproductive processes. In addition unigenes involved in oxidative stress as well as in anhydrobiosis, such as LEA (late embryogenesis abundant protein) and trehalose-6-phosphate synthase were identified. Other tags showed homology to genes previously described as being involved in parasitism (expansin, SEC-2, calreticulin, 14-3-3b and various allergen proteins). In situ hybridization revealed that the expression of a putative expansin and a venom allergen protein was restricted to the gland cell area of the nematode, being in agreement with their presumed role in parasitism. Furthermore, 7 putative novel candidate parasitism genes were identified based on the prediction of a signal peptide in the corresponding protein sequence and homologous ESTs exclusively in parasitic nematodes. These genes are interesting for further research and functional characterization. Finally, 34 unigenes were retained as good target candidates for future RNAi experiments, because of their nematode specific nature and observed lethal phenotypes of Caenorhabditis elegans homologs.
PMCID: PMC2694848  PMID: 19383517
transcripts; parasitism genes; gene ontology; anhydrobiosis; RNAi
4.  A unique genetic code change in the mitochondrial genome of the parasitic nematode Radopholus similis 
BMC Research Notes  2009;2:192.
Mitochondria (mt) contain their own autonomously replicating DNA, constituted as a small circular genome encoding essential subunits of the respiratory chain. Mt DNA is characterized by a genetic code which differs from the standard one. Interestingly, the mt genome of nematodes share some peculiar features, such as small transfer RNAs, truncated ribosomal RNAs and - in the class of Chromadorean nematodes - unidirectional transcription.
We present the complete mt genomic sequence (16,791 bp) of the plant-parasitic nematode Radopholus similis (class Chromadorea). Although it has a gene content similar to most other nematodes, many idiosyncrasies characterize the extremely AT-rich mt genome of R. similis (85.4% AT). The secondary structure of the large (16S) rRNA is further reduced, the gene order is unique, the large non-coding region contains two large repeats, and most interestingly, the UAA codon is reassigned from translation termination to tyrosine. In addition, 7 out of 12 protein-coding genes lack a canonical stop codon and analysis of transcriptional data showed the absence of polyadenylation. Northern blot analysis confirmed that only one strand is transcribed and processed. Furthermore, using nucleotide content bias methods, regions for the origin of replication are suggested.
The extraordinary mt genome of R. similis with its unique genetic code appears to contain exceptional features correlated to DNA decoding. Therefore the genome may provide an incentive to further elucidate these barely understood processes in nematodes. This comprehension may eventually lead to parasitic nematode-specific control targets as healthy mitochondria are imperative for organism survival. In addition, the presented genome is an interesting exceptional event in genetic code evolution.
PMCID: PMC2761399  PMID: 19778425

Results 1-4 (4)