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1.  Community-integrated omics links dominance of a microbial generalist to fine-tuned resource usage 
Nature Communications  2014;5:5603.
Microbial communities are complex and dynamic systems that are primarily structured according to their members’ ecological niches. To investigate how niche breadth (generalist versus specialist lifestyle strategies) relates to ecological success, we develop and apply an integrative workflow for the multi-omic analysis of oleaginous mixed microbial communities from a biological wastewater treatment plant. Time- and space-resolved coupled metabolomic and taxonomic analyses demonstrate that the community-wide lipid accumulation phenotype is associated with the dominance of the generalist bacterium Candidatus Microthrix spp. By integrating population-level genomic reconstructions (reflecting fundamental niches) with transcriptomic and proteomic data (realised niches), we identify finely tuned gene expression governing resource usage by Candidatus Microthrix parvicella over time. Moreover, our results indicate that the fluctuating environmental conditions constrain the accumulation of genetic variation in Candidatus Microthrix parvicella likely due to fitness trade-offs. Based on our observations, niche breadth has to be considered as an important factor for understanding the evolutionary processes governing (microbial) population sizes and structures in situ.
Within microbial communities, microorganisms adopt different lifestyle strategies to use the available resources. Here, the authors use an integrated ‘multi-omic’ approach to study niche breadth (generalist versus specialist lifestyles) in oleaginous microbial assemblages from an anoxic wastewater treatment tank.
PMCID: PMC4263124  PMID: 25424998
2.  Quantitative analysis of colony morphology in yeast 
BioTechniques  2014;56(1):18-27.
Microorganisms often form multicellular structures such as biofilms and structured colonies that can influence the organism’s virulence, drug resistance, and adherence to medical devices. Phenotypic classification of these structures has traditionally relied on qualitative scoring systems that limit detailed phenotypic comparisons between strains. Automated imaging and quantitative analysis have the potential to improve the speed and accuracy of experiments designed to study the genetic and molecular networks underlying different morphological traits. For this reason, we have developed a platform that uses automated image analysis and pattern recognition to quantify phenotypic signatures of yeast colonies. Our strategy enables quantitative analysis of individual colonies, measured at a single time point or over a series of time-lapse images, as well as the classification of distinct colony shapes based on image-derived features. Phenotypic changes in colony morphology can be expressed as changes in feature space trajectories over time, thereby enabling the visualization and quantitative analysis of morphological development. To facilitate data exploration, results are plotted dynamically through an interactive Yeast Image Analysis web application (YIMAA; that integrates the raw and processed images across all time points, allowing exploration of the image-based features and principal components associated with morphological development.
PMCID: PMC3996921  PMID: 24447135
colony morphology; image analysis; software; yeast; phenotype; time-lapse
3.  High-throughput Tetrad Analysis 
Nature methods  2013;10(7):10.1038/nmeth.2479.
Tetrad analysis has been a gold standard genetic technique for several decades. Unfortunately, the manual nature of the process has relegated its application to small-scale studies and limited its integration with rapidly evolving DNA sequencing technologies. We have developed a rapid, high-throughput method, called Barcode Enabled Sequencing of Tetrads (BEST), that replaces the manual processes of isolating, disrupting and spacing tetrads. BEST uses a meiosis-specific GFP fusion protein to isolate tetrads by fluorescence-activated cell sorting and molecular barcodes that are read during genotyping to identify spores derived from the same tetrad. Maintaining tetrad information allows accurate inference of missing genetic markers and full genotypes of missing (and presumably nonviable) individuals. By removing the bottleneck of manual dissection, hundreds or even thousands of tetrads can be isolated in minutes. We demonstrate the approach in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, but BEST is readily transferable to microorganisms in which meiotic mapping is significantly more laborious.
PMCID: PMC3696418  PMID: 23666411
4.  POMO - Plotting Omics analysis results for Multiple Organisms 
BMC Genomics  2013;14:918.
Systems biology experiments studying different topics and organisms produce thousands of data values across different types of genomic data. Further, data mining analyses are yielding ranked and heterogeneous results and association networks distributed over the entire genome. The visualization of these results is often difficult and standalone web tools allowing for custom inputs and dynamic filtering are limited.
We have developed POMO (, an interactive web-based application to visually explore omics data analysis results and associations in circular, network and grid views. The circular graph represents the chromosome lengths as perimeter segments, as a reference outer ring, such as cytoband for human. The inner arcs between nodes represent the uploaded network. Further, multiple annotation rings, for example depiction of gene copy number changes, can be uploaded as text files and represented as bar, histogram or heatmap rings. POMO has built-in references for human, mouse, nematode, fly, yeast, zebrafish, rice, tomato, Arabidopsis, and Escherichia coli. In addition, POMO provides custom options that allow integrated plotting of unsupported strains or closely related species associations, such as human and mouse orthologs or two yeast wild types, studied together within a single analysis. The web application also supports interactive label and weight filtering. Every iterative filtered result in POMO can be exported as image file and text file for sharing or direct future input.
The POMO web application is a unique tool for omics data analysis, which can be used to visualize and filter the genome-wide networks in the context of chromosomal locations as well as multiple network layouts. With the several illustration and filtering options the tool supports the analysis and visualization of any heterogeneous omics data analysis association results for many organisms. POMO is freely available and does not require any installation or registration.
PMCID: PMC3880012  PMID: 24365393
Omics; Association; Visualization; Ortholog; Phenolog; Genome-wide; Network; Model organism
5.  Integrated analysis of transcript-level regulation of metabolism reveals disease-relevant nodes of the human metabolic network 
Nucleic Acids Research  2013;42(3):1474-1496.
Metabolic diseases and comorbidities represent an ever-growing epidemic where multiple cell types impact tissue homeostasis. Here, the link between the metabolic and gene regulatory networks was studied through experimental and computational analysis. Integrating gene regulation data with a human metabolic network prompted the establishment of an open-sourced web portal, IDARE (Integrated Data Nodes of Regulation), for visualizing various gene-related data in context of metabolic pathways. Motivated by increasing availability of deep sequencing studies, we obtained ChIP-seq data from widely studied human umbilical vein endothelial cells. Interestingly, we found that association of metabolic genes with multiple transcription factors (TFs) enriched disease-associated genes. To demonstrate further extensions enabled by examining these networks together, constraint-based modeling was applied to data from human preadipocyte differentiation. In parallel, data on gene expression, genome-wide ChIP-seq profiles for peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR) γ, CCAAT/enhancer binding protein (CEBP) α, liver X receptor (LXR) and H3K4me3 and microRNA target identification for miR-27a, miR-29a and miR-222 were collected. Disease-relevant key nodes, including mitochondrial glycerol-3-phosphate acyltransferase (GPAM), were exposed from metabolic pathways predicted to change activity by focusing on association with multiple regulators. In both cell types, our analysis reveals the convergence of microRNAs and TFs within the branched chain amino acid (BCAA) metabolic pathway, possibly providing an explanation for its downregulation in obese and diabetic conditions.
PMCID: PMC3919568  PMID: 24198249
6.  Fastbreak: a tool for analysis and visualization of structural variations in genomic data 
Genomic studies are now being undertaken on thousands of samples requiring new computational tools that can rapidly analyze data to identify clinically important features. Inferring structural variations in cancer genomes from mate-paired reads is a combinatorially difficult problem. We introduce Fastbreak, a fast and scalable toolkit that enables the analysis and visualization of large amounts of data from projects such as The Cancer Genome Atlas.
PMCID: PMC3605143  PMID: 23046488
Cancer genomics; Structural variation; Translocation
7.  EPEPT: A web service for enhanced P-value estimation in permutation tests 
BMC Bioinformatics  2011;12:411.
In computational biology, permutation tests have become a widely used tool to assess the statistical significance of an event under investigation. However, the common way of computing the P-value, which expresses the statistical significance, requires a very large number of permutations when small (and thus interesting) P-values are to be accurately estimated. This is computationally expensive and often infeasible. Recently, we proposed an alternative estimator, which requires far fewer permutations compared to the standard empirical approach while still reliably estimating small P-values [1].
The proposed P-value estimator has been enriched with additional functionalities and is made available to the general community through a public website and web service, called EPEPT. This means that the EPEPT routines can be accessed not only via a website, but also programmatically using any programming language that can interact with the web. Examples of web service clients in multiple programming languages can be downloaded. Additionally, EPEPT accepts data of various common experiment types used in computational biology. For these experiment types EPEPT first computes the permutation values and then performs the P-value estimation. Finally, the source code of EPEPT can be downloaded.
Different types of users, such as biologists, bioinformaticians and software engineers, can use the method in an appropriate and simple way.
PMCID: PMC3277916  PMID: 22024252
8.  SEQADAPT: an adaptable system for the tracking, storage and analysis of high throughput sequencing experiments 
BMC Bioinformatics  2010;11:377.
High throughput sequencing has become an increasingly important tool for biological research. However, the existing software systems for managing and processing these data have not provided the flexible infrastructure that research requires.
Existing software solutions provide static and well-established algorithms in a restrictive package. However as high throughput sequencing is a rapidly evolving field, such static approaches lack the ability to readily adopt the latest advances and techniques which are often required by researchers. We have used a loosely coupled, service-oriented infrastructure to develop SeqAdapt. This system streamlines data management and allows for rapid integration of novel algorithms. Our approach also allows computational biologists to focus on developing and applying new methods instead of writing boilerplate infrastructure code.
The system is based around the Addama service architecture and is available at our website as a demonstration web application, an installable single download and as a collection of individual customizable services.
PMCID: PMC2916924  PMID: 20630057

Results 1-8 (8)