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1.  SenseLab 
Briefings in bioinformatics  2007;8(3):150-162.
This article presents the latest developments in neuroscience information dissemination through the SenseLab suite of databases: NeuronDB, CellPropDB, ORDB, OdorDB, OdorMapDB, ModelDB and BrainPharm. These databases include information related to: (i) neuronal membrane properties and neuronal models, and (ii) genetics, genomics, proteomics and imaging studies of the olfactory system. We describe here: the new features for each database, the evolution of SenseLab’s unifying database architecture and instances of SenseLab database interoperation with other neuroscience online resources.
PMCID: PMC2756159  PMID: 17510162
neuroscience; databases; SenseLab; neuroinformatics; Human Brain Project
2.  Performance comparison of exome DNA sequencing technologies 
Nature biotechnology  2011;29(10):908-914.
Whole exome sequencing by high-throughput sequencing of target-enriched genomic DNA (exome-seq) has become common in basic and translational research as a means of interrogating the interpretable part of the human genome at relatively low cost. Presented here is a comparison of three major commercial exome sequencing platforms from Agilent, Illumina and Nimblegen applied to the same human blood sample. The Nimblegen platform, which is the only one to use high-density overlapping baits, provides increased efficiency of enrichment and sensitivity for detecting variants but covers fewer genomic regions than the other platforms. As a result, Nimblegen requires the least amount of sequencing to sensitively detect small variants, but Agilent and Illumina are able to detect a greater total number of variants with additional sequencing. Illumina in particular captures the untranslated regions, which are missing from the Nimblegen and Agilent platforms. Exome sequencing and whole genome sequencing (WGS) of the same sample were also compared, demonstrating that exome-seq allows for the detection of additional small variants missed by WGS. These data suggest that WGS experiments benefit from being supplemented with targeted exome-seq data. This study serves to assist the community in selecting the optimal exome-seq platform for their experiments, as well as proving that exome-seq is capable of identifying important coding variations that are missed by a typical WGS experiment.
PMCID: PMC4127531  PMID: 21947028
3.  Performance comparison of whole-genome sequencing platforms 
Nature biotechnology  2011;30(1):78-82.
Whole-genome sequencing is becoming commonplace, but the accuracy and completeness of variant calling by the most widely used platforms from Illumina and Complete Genomics have not been reported. Here we sequenced the genome of an individual with both technologies to a high average coverage of ~76×, and compared their performance with respect to sequence coverage and calling of single-nucleotide variants (SNVs), insertions and deletions (indels). Although 88.1% of the ~3.7 million unique SNVs were concordant between platforms, there were tens of thousands of platform-specific calls located in genes and other genomic regions. In contrast, 26.5% of indels were concordant between platforms. Target enrichment validated 92.7% of the concordant SNVs, whereas validation by genotyping array revealed a sensitivity of 99.3%. The validation experiments also suggested that >60% of the platform-specific variants were indeed present in the genome. Our results have important implications for understanding the accuracy and completeness of the genome sequencing platforms.
PMCID: PMC4076012  PMID: 22178993
4.  Personal Omics Profiling Reveals Dynamic Molecular and Medical Phenotypes 
Cell  2012;148(6):1293-1307.
Personalized medicine is expected to benefit from combining genomic information with regular monitoring of physiological states by multiple high-throughput methods. Here we present an integrative Personal Omics Profile (iPOP), an analysis that combines genomic, transcriptomic, proteomic, metabolomic, and autoantibody profiles from a single individual over a 14-month period. Our iPOP analysis revealed various medical risks, including Type II diabetes. It also uncovered extensive, dynamic changes in diverse molecular components and biological pathways across healthy and diseased conditions. Extremely high coverage genomic and transcriptomic data, which provide the basis of our iPOP, discovered extensive heteroallelic changes during healthy and diseased states and an unexpected RNA editing mechanism. This study demonstrates that longitudinal iPOP can be used to interpret healthy and disease states by connecting genomic information with additional dynamic omics activity.
PMCID: PMC3341616  PMID: 22424236
5.  A Comprehensive Map of Mobile Element Insertion Polymorphisms in Humans 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(8):e1002236.
As a consequence of the accumulation of insertion events over evolutionary time, mobile elements now comprise nearly half of the human genome. The Alu, L1, and SVA mobile element families are still duplicating, generating variation between individual genomes. Mobile element insertions (MEI) have been identified as causes for genetic diseases, including hemophilia, neurofibromatosis, and various cancers. Here we present a comprehensive map of 7,380 MEI polymorphisms from the 1000 Genomes Project whole-genome sequencing data of 185 samples in three major populations detected with two detection methods. This catalog enables us to systematically study mutation rates, population segregation, genomic distribution, and functional properties of MEI polymorphisms and to compare MEI to SNP variation from the same individuals. Population allele frequencies of MEI and SNPs are described, broadly, by the same neutral ancestral processes despite vastly different mutation mechanisms and rates, except in coding regions where MEI are virtually absent, presumably due to strong negative selection. A direct comparison of MEI and SNP diversity levels suggests a differential mobile element insertion rate among populations.
Author Summary
We embarked on this study to explore the 1000 Genomes Project (1000GP) pilot dataset as a substrate for Mobile Element Insertion (MEI) discovery and analysis. MEI is already well known as a significant component of genetic variation in the human population. However the full extent and effects of MEI can only be assessed by accurate detection in large whole-genome sequencing efforts such as the 1000GP. In this study we identified 7,380 distinct genomic locations of variant MEI and carried out rigorous validation experiments that confirmed the high accuracy of the detected events. We were able to measure the frequency of each variant in three continental population groups and found that inherited MEI variants propagate through populations in much the same way as single nucleotide polymorphisms, except that MEI are more strongly suppressed in protein coding parts of the genome. We also found evidence that the MEI mutation rate has not been constant over human population history, rather that different populations appear to have different characteristic MEI mutation rates.
PMCID: PMC3158055  PMID: 21876680
6.  Mapping copy number variation by population scale genome sequencing 
Nature  2011;470(7332):59-65.
Genomic structural variants (SVs) are abundant in humans, differing from other variation classes in extent, origin, and functional impact. Despite progress in SV characterization, the nucleotide resolution architecture of most SVs remains unknown. We constructed a map of unbalanced SVs (i.e., copy number variants) based on whole genome DNA sequencing data from 185 human genomes, integrating evidence from complementary SV discovery approaches with extensive experimental validations. Our map encompassed 22,025 deletions and 6,000 additional SVs, including insertions and tandem duplications. Most SVs (53%) were mapped to nucleotide resolution, which facilitated analyzing their origin and functional impact. We examined numerous whole and partial gene deletions with a genotyping approach and observed a depletion of gene disruptions amongst high frequency deletions. Furthermore, we observed differences in the size spectra of SVs originating from distinct formation mechanisms, and constructed a map constructed a map of SV hotspots formed by common mechanisms. Our analytical framework and SV map serves as a resource for sequencing-based association studies.
PMCID: PMC3077050  PMID: 21293372
7.  Analysis of genomic variation in non-coding elements using population-scale sequencing data from the 1000 Genomes Project 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;39(16):7058-7076.
In the human genome, it has been estimated that considerably more sequence is under natural selection in non-coding regions [such as transcription-factor binding sites (TF-binding sites) and non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs)] compared to protein-coding ones. However, less attention has been paid to them. To study selective pressure on non-coding elements, we use next-generation sequencing data from the recently completed pilot phase of the 1000 Genomes Project, which, compared to traditional methods, allows for the characterization of a full spectrum of genomic variations, including single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), short insertions and deletions (indels) and structural variations (SVs). We develop a framework for combining these variation data with non-coding elements, calculating various population-based metrics to compare classes and subclasses of elements, and developing element-aware aggregation procedures to probe the internal structure of an element. Overall, we find that TF-binding sites and ncRNAs are less selectively constrained for SNPs than coding sequences (CDSs), but more constrained than a neutral reference. We also determine that the relative amounts of constraint for the three types of variations are, in general, correlated, but there are some differences: counter-intuitively, TF-binding sites and ncRNAs are more selectively constrained for indels than for SNPs, compared to CDSs. After inspecting the overall properties of a class of elements, we analyze selective pressure on subclasses within an element class, and show that the extent of selection is associated with the genomic properties of each subclass. We find, for instance, that ncRNAs with higher expression levels tend to be under stronger purifying selection, and the actual regions of TF-binding motifs are under stronger selective pressure than the corresponding peak regions. Further, we develop element-aware aggregation plots to analyze selective pressure across the linear structure of an element, with the confidence intervals evaluated using both simple bootstrapping and block bootstrapping techniques. We find, for example, that both micro-RNAs (particularly the seed regions) and their binding targets are under stronger selective pressure for SNPs than their immediate genomic surroundings. In addition, we demonstrate that substitutions in TF-binding motifs inversely correlate with site conservation, and SNPs unfavorable for motifs are under more selective constraints than favorable SNPs. Finally, to further investigate intra-element differences, we show that SVs have the tendency to use distinctive modes and mechanisms when they interact with genomic elements, such as enveloping whole gene(s) rather than disrupting them partially, as well as duplicating TF motifs in tandem.
PMCID: PMC3167619  PMID: 21596777
8.  Deciphering Protein Kinase Specificity through Large-Scale Analysis of Yeast Phosphorylation Site Motifs 
Science signaling  2010;3(109):ra12.
Phosphorylation is a universal mechanism for regulating cell behavior in eukaryotes. Although protein kinases are known to target short linear sequence motifs on their substrates, the rules for kinase substrate recognition are not completely understood. We used a rapid peptide screening approach to determine consensus phosphorylation site motifs targeted by 61 of the 122 kinases in Saccharomyces cerevisae. Correlation of these motifs with kinase primary sequence has uncovered previously unappreciated rules for determining specificity within the kinase family, including a residue determining P−3 Arg specificity among members of the CMGC group of kinases. Furthermore, computational scanning of the yeast proteome enabled the prediction of thousands of new kinase-substrate relationships. We experimentally verified several candidate substrates of the Prk1 family of kinases in vitro and in vivo, and we identified a protein substrate of the kinase Vhs1. Together, these results elucidate how kinase catalytic domains recognize their phosphorylation targets and suggest general avenues for the identification of new kinase substrates across eukaryotes.
PMCID: PMC2846625  PMID: 20159853
9.  Measuring the Evolutionary Rewiring of Biological Networks 
PLoS Computational Biology  2011;7(1):e1001050.
We have accumulated a large amount of biological network data and expect even more to come. Soon, we anticipate being able to compare many different biological networks as we commonly do for molecular sequences. It has long been believed that many of these networks change, or “rewire”, at different rates. It is therefore important to develop a framework to quantify the differences between networks in a unified fashion. We developed such a formalism based on analogy to simple models of sequence evolution, and used it to conduct a systematic study of network rewiring on all the currently available biological networks. We found that, similar to sequences, biological networks show a decreased rate of change at large time divergences, because of saturation in potential substitutions. However, different types of biological networks consistently rewire at different rates. Using comparative genomics and proteomics data, we found a consistent ordering of the rewiring rates: transcription regulatory, phosphorylation regulatory, genetic interaction, miRNA regulatory, protein interaction, and metabolic pathway network, from fast to slow. This ordering was found in all comparisons we did of matched networks between organisms. To gain further intuition on network rewiring, we compared our observed rewirings with those obtained from simulation. We also investigated how readily our formalism could be mapped to other network contexts; in particular, we showed how it could be applied to analyze changes in a range of “commonplace” networks such as family trees, co-authorships and linux-kernel function dependencies.
Author Summary
Biological networks represent various types of molecular organizations in a cell. During evolution, molecules have been shown to change at varying rates. Therefore, it is important to investigate the evolution of biological networks in terms of network rewiring. Understanding how biological networks evolve could eventually help explain the general mechanism of cellular system. In the past decade, a large amount of high-throughput experiments have helped to unravel the different types of networks in a number of species. Recent studies have provided evolutionary rate calculations on individual networks and observed different rewiring rates between them. We have chosen a systematic approach to compare rewiring rate differences among the common types of biological networks utilizing experimental data across species. Our analysis shows that regulatory networks generally evolve faster than non-regulatory collaborative networks. Our analysis also highlights future applications of the approach to address other interesting biological questions.
PMCID: PMC3017101  PMID: 21253555
10.  Nucleotide-resolution analysis of structural variants using BreakSeq and a breakpoint library 
Nature biotechnology  2009;28(1):47-55.
Structural variants (SVs) are a major source of human genomic variation; however, characterizing them at nucleotide resolution remains challenging. Here we assemble a library of breakpoints at nucleotide resolution from collating and standardizing ~2,000 published SVs. For each breakpoint, we infer its ancestral state (through comparison to primate genomes) and its mechanism of formation (e.g., non-allelic homologous recombination, NAHR). We characterize breakpoint sequences with respect to genomic landmarks, chromosomal location, sequence motifs and physical properties, finding that the occurrence of insertions and deletions is more balanced than previously reported and that NAHR-formed breakpoints are associated with relatively rigid, stable DNA helices. Finally, we demonstrate an approach, BreakSeq, for scanning the reads from short-read sequenced genomes against our breakpoint library to accurately identify previously overlooked SVs, which we then validate by PCR. As new data become available, we expect our BreakSeq approach will become more sensitive and facilitate rapid SV genotyping of personal genomes.
PMCID: PMC2951730  PMID: 20037582
11.  Segmental duplications in the human genome reveal details of pseudogene formation 
Nucleic Acids Research  2010;38(20):6997-7007.
Duplicated pseudogenes in the human genome are disabled copies of functioning parent genes. They result from block duplication events occurring throughout evolutionary history. Relatively recent duplications (with sequence similarity ≥90% and length ≥1 kb) are termed segmental duplications (SDs); here, we analyze the interrelationship of SDs and pseudogenes. We present a decision-tree approach to classify pseudogenes based on their (and their parents’) characteristics in relation to SDs. The classification identifies 140 novel pseudogenes and makes possible improved annotation for the 3172 pseudogenes located in SDs. In particular, it reveals that many pseudogenes in SDs likely did not arise directly from parent genes, but are the result of a multi-step process. In these cases, the initial duplication or retrotransposition of a parent gene gives rise to a ‘parent pseudogene’, followed by further duplication creating duplicated–duplicated or duplicated–processed pseudogenes, respectively. Moreover, we can precisely identify these parent pseudogenes by overlap with ancestral SD loci. Finally, a comparison of nucleotide substitutions per site in a pseudogene with its surrounding SD region allows us to estimate the time difference between duplication and disablement events, and this suggests that most duplicated pseudogenes in SDs were likely disabled around the time of the original duplication.
PMCID: PMC2978362  PMID: 20615899
12.  Genome-Wide Identification of Binding Sites Defines Distinct Functions for Caenorhabditis elegans PHA-4/FOXA in Development and Environmental Response 
PLoS Genetics  2010;6(2):e1000848.
Transcription factors are key components of regulatory networks that control development, as well as the response to environmental stimuli. We have established an experimental pipeline in Caenorhabditis elegans that permits global identification of the binding sites for transcription factors using chromatin immunoprecipitation and deep sequencing. We describe and validate this strategy, and apply it to the transcription factor PHA-4, which plays critical roles in organ development and other cellular processes. We identified thousands of binding sites for PHA-4 during formation of the embryonic pharynx, and also found a role for this factor during the starvation response. Many binding sites were found to shift dramatically between embryos and starved larvae, from developmentally regulated genes to genes involved in metabolism. These results indicate distinct roles for this regulator in two different biological processes and demonstrate the versatility of transcription factors in mediating diverse biological roles.
Author Summary
The C. elegans transcription factor PHA-4 is a member of the highly conserved FOXA family of transcription factors. These factors act as master regulators of organ development by controlling how genes are turned off and on as tissues are formed. Additionally they regulate genes in response to nutrient levels and control both longevity and survival of the organism. However, the extent to which these factors control similar or distinct gene targets for each of these functions is unknown. For this reason, we have used the technique of chromatin immunoprecipitation followed by deep sequencing (ChIP–Seq), to define the target binding sites of PHA-4 on a genome-wide scale, when it is either functioning as an organ identity regulator or in response to environmental stress. Our data clearly demonstrate distinct sets of biologically relevant target genes for the transcription factor PHA-4 under these two different conditions. Not only have we defined PHA-4 targets, but we established an experimental ChIP–Seq pipeline to facilitate the identification of binding sites for many transcription factors in the future.
PMCID: PMC2824807  PMID: 20174564
13.  Pseudofam: the pseudogene families database 
Nucleic Acids Research  2008;37(Database issue):D738-D743.
Pseudofam ( is a database of pseudogene families based on the protein families from the Pfam database. It provides resources for analyzing the family structure of pseudogenes including query tools, statistical summaries and sequence alignments. The current version of Pseudofam contains more than 125 000 pseudogenes identified from 10 eukaryotic genomes and aligned within nearly 3000 families (approximately one-third of the total families in PfamA). Pseudofam uses a large-scale parallelized homology search algorithm (implemented as an extension of the PseudoPipe pipeline) to identify pseudogenes. Each identified pseudogene is assigned to its parent protein family and subsequently aligned to each other by transferring the parent domain alignments from the Pfam family. Pseudogenes are also given additional annotation based on an ontology, reflecting their mode of creation and subsequent history. In particular, our annotation highlights the association of pseudogene families with genomic features, such as segmental duplications. In addition, pseudogene families are associated with key statistics, which identify outlier families with an unusual degree of pseudogenization. The statistics also show how the number of genes and pseudogenes in families correlates across different species. Overall, they highlight the fact that housekeeping families tend to be enriched with a large number of pseudogenes.
PMCID: PMC2686518  PMID: 18957444
14.  Using Web Ontology Language to Integrate Heterogeneous Databases in the Neurosciences 
Integrative neuroscience involves the integration and analysis of diverse types of neuroscience data involving many different experimental techniques. This data will increasingly be distributed across many heterogeneous databases that are web-accessible. Currently, these databases do not expose their schemas (database structures) and their contents to web applications/agents in a standardized, machine-friendly way. This limits database interoperation. To address this problem, we describe a pilot project that illustrates how neuroscience databases can be expressed using the Web Ontology Language, which is a semantically-rich ontological language, as a common data representation language to facilitate complex cross-database queries. In this pilot project, an existing tool called “D2RQ” was used to translate two neuroscience databases (NeuronDB and CoCoDat) into OWL, and the resulting OWL ontologies were then merged. An OWL-based reasoner (Racer) was then used to provide a sophisticated query language (nRQL) to perform integrated queries across the two databases based on the merged ontology. This pilot project is one step toward exploring the use of semantic web technologies in the neurosciences.
PMCID: PMC1839283  PMID: 17238384

Results 1-14 (14)