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author:("Budd, aida")
1.  A Quick Guide for Building a Successful Bioinformatics Community 
PLoS Computational Biology  2015;11(2):e1003972.
“Scientific community” refers to a group of people collaborating together on scientific-research-related activities who also share common goals, interests, and values. Such communities play a key role in many bioinformatics activities. Communities may be linked to a specific location or institute, or involve people working at many different institutions and locations. Education and training is typically an important component of these communities, providing a valuable context in which to develop skills and expertise, while also strengthening links and relationships within the community. Scientific communities facilitate: (i) the exchange and development of ideas and expertise; (ii) career development; (iii) coordinated funding activities; (iv) interactions and engagement with professionals from other fields; and (v) other activities beneficial to individual participants, communities, and the scientific field as a whole. It is thus beneficial at many different levels to understand the general features of successful, high-impact bioinformatics communities; how individual participants can contribute to the success of these communities; and the role of education and training within these communities. We present here a quick guide to building and maintaining a successful, high-impact bioinformatics community, along with an overview of the general benefits of participating in such communities. This article grew out of contributions made by organizers, presenters, panelists, and other participants of the ISMB/ECCB 2013 workshop “The ‘How To Guide’ for Establishing a Successful Bioinformatics Network” at the 21st Annual International Conference on Intelligent Systems for Molecular Biology (ISMB) and the 12th European Conference on Computational Biology (ECCB).
PMCID: PMC4318577  PMID: 25654371
3.  The GOBLET training portal: a global repository of bioinformatics training materials, courses and trainers 
Bioinformatics  2014;31(1):140-142.
Summary: Rapid technological advances have led to an explosion of biomedical data in recent years. The pace of change has inspired new collaborative approaches for sharing materials and resources to help train life scientists both in the use of cutting-edge bioinformatics tools and databases and in how to analyse and interpret large datasets. A prototype platform for sharing such training resources was recently created by the Bioinformatics Training Network (BTN). Building on this work, we have created a centralized portal for sharing training materials and courses, including a catalogue of trainers and course organizers, and an announcement service for training events. For course organizers, the portal provides opportunities to promote their training events; for trainers, the portal offers an environment for sharing materials, for gaining visibility for their work and promoting their skills; for trainees, it offers a convenient one-stop shop for finding suitable training resources and identifying relevant training events and activities locally and worldwide.
Availability and implementation:
PMCID: PMC4271145  PMID: 25189782
4.  The eukaryotic linear motif resource ELM: 10 years and counting 
Nucleic Acids Research  2013;42(Database issue):D259-D266.
The eukaryotic linear motif (ELM resource is a hub for collecting, classifying and curating information about short linear motifs (SLiMs). For >10 years, this resource has provided the scientific community with a freely accessible guide to the biology and function of linear motifs. The current version of ELM contains ∼200 different motif classes with over 2400 experimentally validated instances manually curated from >2000 scientific publications. Furthermore, detailed information about motif-mediated interactions has been annotated and made available in standard exchange formats. Where appropriate, links are provided to resources such as and KEGG pathways.
PMCID: PMC3964949  PMID: 24214962
5.  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
6.  iAnn: an event sharing platform for the life sciences 
Bioinformatics  2013;29(15):1919-1921.
Summary: We present iAnn, an open source community-driven platform for dissemination of life science events, such as courses, conferences and workshops. iAnn allows automatic visualisation and integration of customised event reports. A central repository lies at the core of the platform: curators add submitted events, and these are subsequently accessed via web services. Thus, once an iAnn widget is incorporated into a website, it permanently shows timely relevant information as if it were native to the remote site. At the same time, announcements submitted to the repository are automatically disseminated to all portals that query the system. To facilitate the visualization of announcements, iAnn provides powerful filtering options and views, integrated in Google Maps and Google Calendar. All iAnn widgets are freely available.
PMCID: PMC3712218  PMID: 23742982
7.  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
8.  ELM—the database of eukaryotic linear motifs 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;40(Database issue):D242-D251.
Linear motifs are short, evolutionarily plastic components of regulatory proteins and provide low-affinity interaction interfaces. These compact modules play central roles in mediating every aspect of the regulatory functionality of the cell. They are particularly prominent in mediating cell signaling, controlling protein turnover and directing protein localization. Given their importance, our understanding of motifs is surprisingly limited, largely as a result of the difficulty of discovery, both experimentally and computationally. The Eukaryotic Linear Motif (ELM) resource at provides the biological community with a comprehensive database of known experimentally validated motifs, and an exploratory tool to discover putative linear motifs in user-submitted protein sequences. The current update of the ELM database comprises 1800 annotated motif instances representing 170 distinct functional classes, including approximately 500 novel instances and 24 novel classes. Several older motif class entries have been also revisited, improving annotation and adding novel instances. Furthermore, addition of full-text search capabilities, an enhanced interface and simplified batch download has improved the overall accessibility of the ELM data. The motif discovery portion of the ELM resource has added conservation, and structural attributes have been incorporated to aid users to discriminate biologically relevant motifs from stochastically occurring non-functional instances.
PMCID: PMC3245074  PMID: 22110040
9.  Characterization of a regulatory unit that controls melanization and affects longevity of mosquitoes 
Melanization is an innate immune response in arthropods that encapsulates and kills invading pathogens. One of its rate-limiting steps is the activation of prophenoloxidase (PPO), which is controlled by an extracellular proteinase cascade and serpin inhibitors. The molecular composition of this system is largely unknown in mosquitoes with the exception of serpin-2 (SRPN2), which was previously identified as a key negative regulator of melanization. Using reverse genetic and biochemical techniques we identified the Anopheles gambiae clip-serine proteinase CLIPB9 as a PPO-activating proteinase, which is inhibited by SRPN2. Double-knockdown of SRPN2 and CLIPB9 reversed the pleiotrophic phenotype induced by SRPN2 silencing. This study identifies the first inhibitory serpin-serine proteinase pair in mosquitoes, and defines a regulatory unit of melanization. Additionally, the interaction of CLIPB9 and SRPN2 affects the life span of adult female mosquitoes, and therefore constitutes a well-defined potential molecular target for novel Late-Life Acting insecticides.
PMCID: PMC3070200  PMID: 20953892
Anopheles gambiae; innate immunity; serpin; serine proteinase; malaria
10.  Ancient Protostome Origin of Chemosensory Ionotropic Glutamate Receptors and the Evolution of Insect Taste and Olfaction 
PLoS Genetics  2010;6(8):e1001064.
Ionotropic glutamate receptors (iGluRs) are a highly conserved family of ligand-gated ion channels present in animals, plants, and bacteria, which are best characterized for their roles in synaptic communication in vertebrate nervous systems. A variant subfamily of iGluRs, the Ionotropic Receptors (IRs), was recently identified as a new class of olfactory receptors in the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, hinting at a broader function of this ion channel family in detection of environmental, as well as intercellular, chemical signals. Here, we investigate the origin and evolution of IRs by comprehensive evolutionary genomics and in situ expression analysis. In marked contrast to the insect-specific Odorant Receptor family, we show that IRs are expressed in olfactory organs across Protostomia—a major branch of the animal kingdom that encompasses arthropods, nematodes, and molluscs—indicating that they represent an ancestral protostome chemosensory receptor family. Two subfamilies of IRs are distinguished: conserved “antennal IRs,” which likely define the first olfactory receptor family of insects, and species-specific “divergent IRs,” which are expressed in peripheral and internal gustatory neurons, implicating this family in taste and food assessment. Comparative analysis of drosophilid IRs reveals the selective forces that have shaped the repertoires in flies with distinct chemosensory preferences. Examination of IR gene structure and genomic distribution suggests both non-allelic homologous recombination and retroposition contributed to the expansion of this multigene family. Together, these findings lay a foundation for functional analysis of these receptors in both neurobiological and evolutionary studies. Furthermore, this work identifies novel targets for manipulating chemosensory-driven behaviours of agricultural pests and disease vectors.
Author Summary
Ionotropic glutamate receptors (iGluRs) are a family of cell surface proteins best known for their role in allowing neurons to communicate with each other in the brain. We recently discovered a variant class of iGluRs in the fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster), named Ionotropic Receptors (IRs), which function as olfactory receptors in its “nose,” prompting us to ask whether iGluR/IRs might have a more general function in detection of environmental chemicals. Here, we have identified families of IRs in olfactory and taste sensory organs throughout protostomes, one of the principal branches of animal life that includes snails, worms, crustaceans, and insects. Our findings suggest that this receptor family has an evolutionary ancient function in detecting odors and tastants in the external world. By comparing the repertoires of these chemosensory IRs among both closely- and distantly-related species, we have observed dynamic patterns of expansion and divergence of these receptor families in organisms occupying very different ecological niches. Notably, many of the receptors we have identified are in insects that are of significant harm to human health, such as the malaria mosquito. These proteins represent attractive targets for novel types of insect repellents to control the host-seeking behaviors of such pest species.
PMCID: PMC2924276  PMID: 20808886
11.  The Compartmentalized Bacteria of the Planctomycetes-Verrucomicrobia-Chlamydiae Superphylum Have Membrane Coat-Like Proteins 
PLoS Biology  2010;8(1):e1000281.
Compartmentalized bacteria have proteins that are structurally related to eukaryotic membrane coats, and one of these proteins localizes at the membrane of vesicles formed inside bacterial cells.
The development of the endomembrane system was a major step in eukaryotic evolution. Membrane coats, which exhibit a unique arrangement of β-propeller and α-helical repeat domains, play key roles in shaping eukaryotic membranes. Such proteins are likely to have been present in the ancestral eukaryote but cannot be detected in prokaryotes using sequence-only searches. We have used a structure-based detection protocol to search all proteomes for proteins with this domain architecture. Apart from the eukaryotes, we identified this protein architecture only in the Planctomycetes-Verrucomicrobia-Chlamydiae (PVC) bacterial superphylum, many members of which share a compartmentalized cell plan. We determined that one such protein is partly localized at the membranes of vesicles formed inside the cells in the planctomycete Gemmata obscuriglobus. Our results demonstrate similarities between bacterial and eukaryotic compartmentalization machinery, suggesting that the bacterial PVC superphylum contributed significantly to eukaryogenesis.
Author Summary
Despite decades of research, the origin of eukaryotic cells remains an unsolved issue. The endomembrane system defines the eukaryotic cell, and its origin is linked to that of eukaryotes. A search was conducted within all known sequences for proteins that are characteristic of the eukaryotic endomembrane system, using a combination of fold types that is uniquely found in the membrane coat proteins. Outside eukaryotes, such proteins were solely found in the Planctomycetes-Verrucomicrobia-Chlamydiae (PVC) bacterial superphylum. By immuno-electron microscopy, one of these bacterial proteins was found to localize adjacent to the membranes of vesicles found within the cells of one member of the PVC superphylum. Thus, there appear to be similarities between bacterial and eukaryotic compartmentalization systems, suggesting that the bacterial PVC superphylum may have contributed significantly to eukaryogenesis.
PMCID: PMC2799638  PMID: 20087413
12.  ELM: the status of the 2010 eukaryotic linear motif resource 
Nucleic Acids Research  2009;38(Database issue):D167-D180.
Linear motifs are short segments of multidomain proteins that provide regulatory functions independently of protein tertiary structure. Much of intracellular signalling passes through protein modifications at linear motifs. Many thousands of linear motif instances, most notably phosphorylation sites, have now been reported. Although clearly very abundant, linear motifs are difficult to predict de novo in protein sequences due to the difficulty of obtaining robust statistical assessments. The ELM resource at provides an expanding knowledge base, currently covering 146 known motifs, with annotation that includes >1300 experimentally reported instances. ELM is also an exploratory tool for suggesting new candidates of known linear motifs in proteins of interest. Information about protein domains, protein structure and native disorder, cellular and taxonomic contexts is used to reduce or deprecate false positive matches. Results are graphically displayed in a ‘Bar Code’ format, which also displays known instances from homologous proteins through a novel ‘Instance Mapper’ protocol based on PHI-BLAST. ELM server output provides links to the ELM annotation as well as to a number of remote resources. Using the links, researchers can explore the motifs, proteins, complex structures and associated literature to evaluate whether candidate motifs might be worth experimental investigation.
PMCID: PMC2808914  PMID: 19920119
13.  Analysis of mammalian gene batteries reveals both stable ancestral cores and highly dynamic regulatory sequences 
Genome Biology  2008;9(12):R172.
Analysis of the evolutionary dynamics of target gene batteries controlled by 16 different transcription factors reveals stable ancestral cores and highly dynamic regulatory sequences
Changes in gene regulation are suspected to comprise one of the driving forces for evolution. To address the extent of cis-regulatory changes and how they impact on gene regulatory networks across eukaryotes, we systematically analyzed the evolutionary dynamics of target gene batteries controlled by 16 different transcription factors.
We found that gene batteries show variable conservation within vertebrates, with slow and fast evolving modules. Hence, while a key gene battery associated with the cell cycle is conserved throughout metazoans, the POU5F1 (Oct4) and SOX2 batteries in embryonic stem cells show strong conservation within mammals, with the striking exception of rodents. Within the genes composing a given gene battery, we could identify a conserved core that likely reflects the ancestral function of the corresponding transcription factor. Interestingly, we show that the association between a transcription factor and its target genes is conserved even when we exclude conserved sequence similarities of their promoter regions from our analysis. This supports the idea that turnover, either of the transcription factor binding site or its direct neighboring sequence, is a pervasive feature of proximal regulatory sequences.
Our study reveals the dynamics of evolutionary changes within metazoan gene networks, including both the composition of gene batteries and the architecture of target gene promoters. This variation provides the playground required for evolutionary innovation around conserved ancestral core functions.
PMCID: PMC2646276  PMID: 19087242
14.  Bacterial α2-macroglobulins: colonization factors acquired by horizontal gene transfer from the metazoan genome? 
Genome Biology  2004;5(6):R38.
Homologs of metazoan α2-macroglobulins have been found in bacteria. The distribution of these genes in diverse bacterial clades suggests they have been acquired by multiple horizontal transfers.
Invasive bacteria are known to have captured and adapted eukaryotic host genes. They also readily acquire colonizing genes from other bacteria by horizontal gene transfer. Closely related species such as Helicobacter pylori and Helicobacter hepaticus, which exploit different host tissues, share almost none of their colonization genes. The protease inhibitor α2-macroglobulin provides a major metazoan defense against invasive bacteria, trapping attacking proteases required by parasites for successful invasion.
Database searches with metazoan α2-macroglobulin sequences revealed homologous sequences in bacterial proteomes. The bacterial α2-macroglobulin phylogenetic distribution is patchy and violates the vertical descent model. Bacterial α2-macroglobulin genes are found in diverse clades, including purple bacteria (proteobacteria), fusobacteria, spirochetes, bacteroidetes, deinococcids, cyanobacteria, planctomycetes and thermotogae. Most bacterial species with bacterial α2-macroglobulin genes exploit higher eukaryotes (multicellular plants and animals) as hosts. Both pathogenically invasive and saprophytically colonizing species possess bacterial α2-macroglobulins, indicating that bacterial α2-macroglobulin is a colonization rather than a virulence factor.
Metazoan α2-macroglobulins inhibit proteases of pathogens. The bacterial homologs may function in reverse to block host antimicrobial defenses. α2-macroglobulin was probably acquired one or more times from metazoan hosts and has then spread widely through other colonizing bacterial species by more than 10 independent horizontal gene transfers. yfhM-like bacterial α2-macroglobulin genes are often found tightly linked with pbpC, encoding an atypical peptidoglycan transglycosylase, PBP1C, that does not function in vegetative peptidoglycan synthesis. We suggest that YfhM and PBP1C are coupled together as a periplasmic defense and repair system. Bacterial α2-macroglobulins might provide useful targets for enhancing vaccine efficacy in combating infections.
PMCID: PMC463071  PMID: 15186489
15.  BLAST2SRS, a web server for flexible retrieval of related protein sequences in the SWISS-PROT and SPTrEMBL databases 
Nucleic Acids Research  2003;31(13):3792-3794.
SRS (Sequence Retrieval System) is a widely used keyword search engine for querying biological databases. BLAST2 is the most widely used tool to query databases by sequence similarity search. These tools allow users to retrieve sequences by shared keyword or by shared similarity, with many public web servers available. However, with the increasingly large datasets available it is now quite common that a user is interested in some subset of homologous sequences but has no efficient way to restrict retrieval to that set. By allowing the user to control SRS from the BLAST output, BLAST2SRS ( aims to meet this need. This server therefore combines the two ways to search sequence databases: similarity and keyword.
PMCID: PMC168942  PMID: 12824420
16.  RPA is an initiation factor for human chromosomal DNA replication 
Nucleic Acids Research  2003;31(6):1725-1734.
The initiation of chromosomal DNA replication in human cell nuclei is not well understood because of its complexity. To allow investigation of this process on a molecular level, we have recently established a cell-free system that initiates chromosomal DNA replication in an origin-specific manner under cell cycle control in isolated human cell nuclei. We have now used fractionation and reconstitution experiments to functionally identify cellular factors present in a human cell extract that trigger initiation of chromosomal DNA replication in this system. Initial fractionation of a cytosolic extract indicates the presence of at least two independent and non-redundant initiation factors. We have purified one of these factors to homogeneity and identified it as the single-stranded DNA binding protein RPA. The prokaryotic single-stranded DNA binding protein SSB cannot substitute for RPA in the initiation of human chromosomal DNA replication. Antibodies specific for human RPA inhibit the initiation step of human chromosomal DNA replication in vitro. RPA is recruited to DNA replication foci and becomes phosphorylated concomitant with the initiation step in vitro. These data establish a direct functional role for RPA as an essential factor for the initiation of human chromosomal DNA replication.
PMCID: PMC152871  PMID: 12626714

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