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1.  SeqWare Query Engine: storing and searching sequence data in the cloud 
BMC Bioinformatics  2010;11(Suppl 12):S2.
Since the introduction of next-generation DNA sequencers the rapid increase in sequencer throughput, and associated drop in costs, has resulted in more than a dozen human genomes being resequenced over the last few years. These efforts are merely a prelude for a future in which genome resequencing will be commonplace for both biomedical research and clinical applications. The dramatic increase in sequencer output strains all facets of computational infrastructure, especially databases and query interfaces. The advent of cloud computing, and a variety of powerful tools designed to process petascale datasets, provide a compelling solution to these ever increasing demands.
In this work, we present the SeqWare Query Engine which has been created using modern cloud computing technologies and designed to support databasing information from thousands of genomes. Our backend implementation was built using the highly scalable, NoSQL HBase database from the Hadoop project. We also created a web-based frontend that provides both a programmatic and interactive query interface and integrates with widely used genome browsers and tools. Using the query engine, users can load and query variants (SNVs, indels, translocations, etc) with a rich level of annotations including coverage and functional consequences. As a proof of concept we loaded several whole genome datasets including the U87MG cell line. We also used a glioblastoma multiforme tumor/normal pair to both profile performance and provide an example of using the Hadoop MapReduce framework within the query engine. This software is open source and freely available from the SeqWare project (
The SeqWare Query Engine provided an easy way to make the U87MG genome accessible to programmers and non-programmers alike. This enabled a faster and more open exploration of results, quicker tuning of parameters for heuristic variant calling filters, and a common data interface to simplify development of analytical tools. The range of data types supported, the ease of querying and integrating with existing tools, and the robust scalability of the underlying cloud-based technologies make SeqWare Query Engine a nature fit for storing and searching ever-growing genome sequence datasets.
PMCID: PMC3040528  PMID: 21210981
2.  Pathogenicity of a disease-associated human IL-4 receptor allele in experimental asthma 
The Journal of Experimental Medicine  2009;206(10):2191-2204.
Polymorphisms in the interleukin-4 receptor α chain (IL-4Rα) have been linked to asthma incidence and severity, but a causal relationship has remained uncertain. In particular, a glutamine to arginine substitution at position 576 (Q576R) of IL-4Rα has been associated with severe asthma, especially in African Americans. We show that mice carrying the Q576R polymorphism exhibited intense allergen-induced airway inflammation and remodeling. The Q576R polymorphism did not affect proximal signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT) 6 activation, but synergized with STAT6 in a gene target– and tissue-specific manner to mediate heightened expression of a subset of IL-4– and IL-13–responsive genes involved in allergic inflammation. Our findings indicate that the Q576R polymorphism directly promotes asthma in carrier populations by selectively augmenting IL-4Rα–dependent signaling.
PMCID: PMC2757875  PMID: 19770271
3.  U87MG Decoded: The Genomic Sequence of a Cytogenetically Aberrant Human Cancer Cell Line 
PLoS Genetics  2010;6(1):e1000832.
U87MG is a commonly studied grade IV glioma cell line that has been analyzed in at least 1,700 publications over four decades. In order to comprehensively characterize the genome of this cell line and to serve as a model of broad cancer genome sequencing, we have generated greater than 30× genomic sequence coverage using a novel 50-base mate paired strategy with a 1.4kb mean insert library. A total of 1,014,984,286 mate-end and 120,691,623 single-end two-base encoded reads were generated from five slides. All data were aligned using a custom designed tool called BFAST, allowing optimal color space read alignment and accurate identification of DNA variants. The aligned sequence reads and mate-pair information identified 35 interchromosomal translocation events, 1,315 structural variations (>100 bp), 191,743 small (<21 bp) insertions and deletions (indels), and 2,384,470 single nucleotide variations (SNVs). Among these observations, the known homozygous mutation in PTEN was robustly identified, and genes involved in cell adhesion were overrepresented in the mutated gene list. Data were compared to 219,187 heterozygous single nucleotide polymorphisms assayed by Illumina 1M Duo genotyping array to assess accuracy: 93.83% of all SNPs were reliably detected at filtering thresholds that yield greater than 99.99% sequence accuracy. Protein coding sequences were disrupted predominantly in this cancer cell line due to small indels, large deletions, and translocations. In total, 512 genes were homozygously mutated, including 154 by SNVs, 178 by small indels, 145 by large microdeletions, and 35 by interchromosomal translocations to reveal a highly mutated cell line genome. Of the small homozygously mutated variants, 8 SNVs and 99 indels were novel events not present in dbSNP. These data demonstrate that routine generation of broad cancer genome sequence is possible outside of genome centers. The sequence analysis of U87MG provides an unparalleled level of mutational resolution compared to any cell line to date.
Author Summary
Glioblastoma has a particularly dismal prognosis with median survival time of less than fifteen months. Here, we describe the broad genome sequencing of U87MG, a commonly used and thus well-studied glioblastoma cell line. One of the major features of the U87MG genome is the large number of chromosomal abnormalities, which can be typical of cancer cell lines and primary cancers. The systematic, thorough, and accurate mutational analysis of the U87MG genome comprehensively identifies different classes of genetic mutations including single-nucleotide variations (SNVs), insertions/deletions (indels), and translocations. We found 2,384,470 SNVs, 191,743 small indels, and 1,314 large structural variations. Known gene models were used to predict the effect of these mutations on protein-coding sequence. Mutational analysis revealed 512 genes homozygously mutated, including 154 by SNVs, 178 by small indels, 145 by large microdeletions, and up to 35 by interchromosomal translocations. The major mutational mechanisms in this brain cancer cell line are small indels and large structural variations. The genomic landscape of U87MG is revealed to be much more complex than previously thought based on lower resolution techniques. This mutational analysis serves as a resource for past and future studies on U87MG, informing them with a thorough description of its mutational state.
PMCID: PMC2813426  PMID: 20126413
4.  Improving the efficiency of genomic loci capture using oligonucleotide arrays for high throughput resequencing 
BMC Genomics  2009;10:646.
The emergence of next-generation sequencing technology presents tremendous opportunities to accelerate the discovery of rare variants or mutations that underlie human genetic disorders. Although the complete sequencing of the affected individuals' genomes would be the most powerful approach to finding such variants, the cost of such efforts make it impractical for routine use in disease gene research. In cases where candidate genes or loci can be defined by linkage, association, or phenotypic studies, the practical sequencing target can be made much smaller than the whole genome, and it becomes critical to have capture methods that can be used to purify the desired portion of the genome for shotgun short-read sequencing without biasing allelic representation or coverage. One major approach is array-based capture which relies on the ability to create a custom in-situ synthesized oligonucleotide microarray for use as a collection of hybridization capture probes. This approach is being used by our group and others routinely and we are continuing to improve its performance.
Here, we provide a complete protocol optimized for large aggregate sequence intervals and demonstrate its utility with the capture of all predicted amino acid coding sequence from 3,038 human genes using 241,700 60-mer oligonucleotides. Further, we demonstrate two techniques by which the efficiency of the capture can be increased: by introducing a step to block cross hybridization mediated by common adapter sequences used in sequencing library construction, and by repeating the hybridization capture step. These improvements can boost the targeting efficiency to the point where over 85% of the mapped sequence reads fall within 100 bases of the targeted regions.
The complete protocol introduced in this paper enables researchers to perform practical capture experiments, and includes two novel methods for increasing the targeting efficiency. Coupled with the new massively parallel sequencing technologies, this provides a powerful approach to identifying disease-causing genetic variants that can be localized within the genome by traditional methods.
PMCID: PMC2808330  PMID: 20043857
5.  GMODWeb: a web framework for the generic model organism database 
Genome Biology  2008;9(6):R102.
GMODWeb is a software framework designed to speed the development of websites for model organism databases.
The Generic Model Organism Database (GMOD) initiative provides species-agnostic data models and software tools for representing curated model organism data. Here we describe GMODWeb, a GMOD project designed to speed the development of model organism database (MOD) websites. Sites created with GMODWeb provide integration with other GMOD tools and allow users to browse and search through a variety of data types. GMODWeb was built using the open source Turnkey web framework and is available from .
PMCID: PMC2481422  PMID: 18570664
6.  Celsius: a community resource for Affymetrix microarray data 
Genome Biology  2007;8(6):R112.
Celsius is a new system that serves as a warehouse by aggregating Affymetrix files and associated metadata, and containing the largest publicly available source of Affymetrix microarray data.
Celsius is a data warehousing system to aggregate Affymetrix CEL files and associated metadata. It provides mechanisms for importing, storing, querying, and exporting large volumes of primary and pre-processed microarray data. Celsius contains ten billion assay measurements and affiliated metadata. It is the largest publicly available source of Affymetrix microarray data, and through sheer volume it allows a sophisticated, broad view of transcription that has not previously been possible.
PMCID: PMC2394754  PMID: 17570842
7.  GDAP: a web tool for genome-wide protein disulfide bond prediction 
Nucleic Acids Research  2004;32(Web Server issue):W360-W364.
The Genomic Disulfide Analysis Program (GDAP) provides web access to computationally predicted protein disulfide bonds for over one hundred microbial genomes, including both bacterial and achaeal species. In the GDAP process, sequences of unknown structure are mapped, when possible, to known homologous Protein Data Bank (PDB) structures, after which specific distance criteria are applied to predict disulfide bonds. GDAP also accepts user-supplied protein sequences and subsequently queries the PDB sequence database for the best matches, scans for possible disulfide bonds and returns the results to the client. These predictions are useful for a variety of applications and have previously been used to show a dramatic preference in certain thermophilic archaea and bacteria for disulfide bonds within intracellular proteins. Given the central role these stabilizing, covalent bonds play in such organisms, the predictions available from GDAP provide a rich data source for designing site-directed mutants with more stable thermal profiles. The GDAP web application is a gateway to this information and can be used to understand the role disulfide bonds play in protein stability both in these unusual organisms and in sequences of interest to the individual researcher. The prediction server can be accessed at
PMCID: PMC441514  PMID: 15215411
8.  The Genomics of Disulfide Bonding and Protein Stabilization in Thermophiles 
PLoS Biology  2005;3(9):e309.
Thermophilic organisms flourish in varied high-temperature environmental niches that are deadly to other organisms. Recently, genomic evidence has implicated a critical role for disulfide bonds in the structural stabilization of intracellular proteins from certain of these organisms, contrary to the conventional view that structural disulfide bonds are exclusively extracellular. Here both computational and structural data are presented to explore the occurrence of disulfide bonds as a protein-stabilization method across many thermophilic prokaryotes. Based on computational studies, disulfide-bond richness is found to be widespread, with thermophiles containing the highest levels. Interestingly, only a distinct subset of thermophiles exhibit this property. A computational search for proteins matching this target phylogenetic profile singles out a specific protein, known as protein disulfide oxidoreductase, as a potential key player in thermophilic intracellular disulfide-bond formation. Finally, biochemical support in the form of a new crystal structure of a thermophilic protein with three disulfide bonds is presented together with a survey of known structures from the literature. Together, the results provide insight into biochemical specialization and the diversity of methods employed by organisms to stabilize their proteins in exotic environments. The findings also motivate continued efforts to sequence genomes from divergent organisms.
Certain thermophiles are found to stabilize their proteins in extreme environments with additional disulfide bonds. A phylogenetic profile identifies a protein disulfide oxidoreductase critical to the stabilization process.
PMCID: PMC1188242  PMID: 16111437

Results 1-8 (8)