Evidence is accumulating that individuals in poor physiologic condition may accumulate mutational damage faster than individuals in good condition. If poor condition results from pre-existing deleterious mutations, the result is “fitness-dependent mutation rate,” which has interesting theoretical implications. Here we report a study in which 10 mutation accumulation (MA) lines of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans that had previously accumulated mutations for 250 generations under relaxed selection were expanded into sets of “second-order” MA lines and allowed to accumulate mutations for an additional 150 generations. The 10 lines were chosen on the basis of the relative change in fitness over the first 250 generations of MA, five high-fitness lines and five low-fitness lines. On average, the mutational properties (per-generation change in mean relative fitness, mutational variance, and Bateman-Mukai estimates of genomic mutation rate and average mutational effect) of the high-fitness and low-fitness did not differ significantly, and averaged over all lines, the point estimates were extremely close to those of the first-order MA experiment after 200 generations of MA. However, several nonsignificant trends indicate that low-fitness lines may in fact be more likely to suffer mutational damage than high-fitness lines.
Bateman-Mukai method; fitness-dependent mutation; genetic load; mutational variance
Representing phenotype in a way that can be linked to thousands of molecular genetic and environmental databases is an unresolved research challenge. A recent meeting of the Phenotype Research Coordination Network (RCN) aimed to coordinate and leverage current efforts. The three day summit meeting was hosted by NESCent (The National Evolutionary Synthesis Center) in Durham, North Carolina on the 23rd – 25th of February, 2012.
This paper describes an approach to providing computer-interpretable logical definitions for the terms of the Human Phenotype Ontology (HPO) using PATO, the ontology of phenotypic qualities, to link terms of the HPO to the anatomic and other entities that are affected by abnormal phenotypic qualities. This approach will allow improved computerized reasoning as well as a facility to compare phenotypes between different species. The PATO mapping will also provide direct links from phenotypic abnormalities and underlying anatomic structures encoded using the Foundational Model of Anatomy, which will be a valuable resource for computational investigations of the links between anatomical components and concepts representing diseases with abnormal phenotypes and associated genes.
A recent paper (Nehrt et al., PLoS Comput. Biol. 7:e1002073, 2011) has proposed a metric for the “functional similarity” between two genes that uses only the Gene Ontology (GO) annotations directly derived from published experimental results. Applying this metric, the authors concluded that paralogous genes within the mouse genome or the human genome are more functionally similar on average than orthologous genes between these genomes, an unexpected result with broad implications if true. We suggest, based on both theoretical and empirical considerations, that this proposed metric should not be interpreted as a functional similarity, and therefore cannot be used to support any conclusions about the “ortholog conjecture” (or, more properly, the “ortholog functional conservation hypothesis”). First, we reexamine the case studies presented by Nehrt et al. as examples of orthologs with divergent functions, and come to a very different conclusion: they actually exemplify how GO annotations for orthologous genes provide complementary information about conserved biological functions. We then show that there is a global ascertainment bias in the experiment-based GO annotations for human and mouse genes: particular types of experiments tend to be performed in different model organisms. We conclude that the reported statistical differences in annotations between pairs of orthologous genes do not reflect differences in biological function, but rather complementarity in experimental approaches. Our results underscore two general considerations for researchers proposing novel types of analysis based on the GO: 1) that GO annotations are often incomplete, potentially in a biased manner, and subject to an “open world assumption” (absence of an annotation does not imply absence of a function), and 2) that conclusions drawn from a novel, large-scale GO analysis should whenever possible be supported by careful, in-depth examination of examples, to help ensure the conclusions have a justifiable biological basis.
Understanding gene function—how individual genes contribute to the biology of an organism at the molecular, cellular and organism levels—is one of the primary aims of biomedical research. It has been a longstanding tenet of model organism research that experimental knowledge obtained in one organism is often applicable to other organisms, particularly if the organisms share the relevant genes because they inherited them from their common ancestor. Nevertheless this tenet is, like any hypothesis, not beyond question. A recent paper has termed this hypothesis a “conjecture,” and performed a statistical analysis, the results of which were interpreted as evidence against the hypothesis. This statistical analysis relied on a computational representation of gene function, the Gene Ontology (GO). As representatives of the international consortium that produces the GO, we show how the apparent evidence against the “ortholog conjecture” can be better explained as an artifact of how molecular biology knowledge is accumulated. In short, a complementarity between knowledge obtained in mouse and human experimental systems was incorrectly interpreted as a disagreement. We discuss the proper interpretation of GO annotations and potential sources of bias, with an eye toward enhancing the informed use of the GO by the scientific community.
The identification of orthologs—genes pairs descended from a common ancestor through speciation, rather than duplication—has emerged as an essential component of many bioinformatics applications, ranging from the annotation of new genomes to experimental target prioritization. Yet, the development and application of orthology inference methods is hampered by the lack of consensus on source proteomes, file formats and benchmarks. The second ‘Quest for Orthologs’ meeting brought together stakeholders from various communities to address these challenges. We report on achievements and outcomes of this meeting, focusing on topics of particular relevance to the research community at large. The Quest for Orthologs consortium is an open community that welcomes contributions from all researchers interested in orthology research and applications.
We present Uberon, an integrated cross-species ontology consisting of over 6,500 classes representing a variety of anatomical entities, organized according to traditional anatomical classification criteria. The ontology represents structures in a species-neutral way and includes extensive associations to existing species-centric anatomical ontologies, allowing integration of model organism and human data. Uberon provides a necessary bridge between anatomical structures in different taxa for cross-species inference. It uses novel methods for representing taxonomic variation, and has proved to be essential for translational phenotype analyses. Uberon is available at http://uberon.org
In an effort to comprehensively characterize the functional elements within the genomes of the important model organisms Drosophila melanogaster and Caenorhabditis elegans, the NHGRI model organism Encyclopaedia of DNA Elements (modENCODE) consortium has generated an enormous library of genomic data along with detailed, structured information on all aspects of the experiments. The modMine database (http://intermine.modencode.org) described here has been built by the modENCODE Data Coordination Center to allow the broader research community to (i) search for and download data sets of interest among the thousands generated by modENCODE; (ii) access the data in an integrated form together with non-modENCODE data sets; and (iii) facilitate fine-grained analysis of the above data. The sophisticated search features are possible because of the collection of extensive experimental metadata by the consortium. Interfaces are provided to allow both biologists and bioinformaticians to exploit these rich modENCODE data sets now available via modMine.
The goal of the Gene Ontology (GO) project is to provide a uniform way to describe the functions of gene products from organisms across all kingdoms of life and thereby enable analysis of genomic data. Protein annotations are either based on experiments or predicted from protein sequences. Since most sequences have not been experimentally characterized, most available annotations need to be based on predictions. To make as accurate inferences as possible, the GO Consortium's Reference Genome Project is using an explicit evolutionary framework to infer annotations of proteins from a broad set of genomes from experimental annotations in a semi-automated manner. Most components in the pipeline, such as selection of sequences, building multiple sequence alignments and phylogenetic trees, retrieving experimental annotations and depositing inferred annotations, are fully automated. However, the most crucial step in our pipeline relies on software-assisted curation by an expert biologist. This curation tool, Phylogenetic Annotation and INference Tool (PAINT) helps curators to infer annotations among members of a protein family. PAINT allows curators to make precise assertions as to when functions were gained and lost during evolution and record the evidence (e.g. experimentally supported GO annotations and phylogenetic information including orthology) for those assertions. In this article, we describe how we use PAINT to infer protein function in a phylogenetic context with emphasis on its strengths, limitations and guidelines. We also discuss specific examples showing how PAINT annotations compare with those generated by other highly used homology-based methods.
gene ontology; genome annotation; reference genome; gene function prediction; phylogenetics
The model organism Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (modENCODE) project is a National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) initiative designed to characterize the genomes of Drosophila melanogaster and Caenorhabditis elegans. A Data Coordination Center (DCC) was created to collect, store and catalog modENCODE data. An effective DCC must gather, organize and provide all primary, interpreted and analyzed data, and ensure the community is supplied with the knowledge of the experimental conditions, protocols and verification checks used to generate each primary data set. We present here the design principles of the modENCODE DCC, and describe the ramifications of collecting thorough and deep metadata for describing experiments, including the use of a wiki for capturing protocol and reagent information, and the BIR-TAB specification for linking biological samples to experimental results. modENCODE data can be found at http://www.modencode.org.
Database URL: http://www.modencode.org.
We describe a novel approach to genetic association analyses with proteins sub-divided into biologically relevant smaller sequence features (SFs), and their variant types (VTs). SFVT analyses are particularly informative for study of highly polymorphic proteins such as the human leukocyte antigen (HLA), given the nature of its genetic variation: the high level of polymorphism, the pattern of amino acid variability, and that most HLA variation occurs at functionally important sites, as well as its known role in organ transplant rejection, autoimmune disease development and response to infection. Further, combinations of variable amino acid sites shared by several HLA alleles (shared epitopes) are most likely better descriptors of the actual causative genetic variants. In a cohort of systemic sclerosis patients/controls, SFVT analysis shows that a combination of SFs implicating specific amino acid residues in peptide binding pockets 4 and 7 of HLA-DRB1 explains much of the molecular determinant of risk.
Genomic sequencing has made it clear that a large fraction of the genes specifying the core biological functions are shared by all eukaryotes. Knowledge of the biological role of such shared proteins in one organism can often be transferred to other organisms. The goal of the Gene Ontology Consortium is to produce a dynamic, controlled vocabulary that can be applied to all eukaryotes even as knowledge of gene and protein roles in cells is accumulating and changing. To this end, three independent ontologies accessible on the World-Wide Web (http://www.geneontology.org) are being constructed: biological process, molecular function and cellular component.
The present article proposes the adoption of a community-defined, uniform, generic description of the core attributes of biological databases, BioDBCore. The goals of these attributes are to provide a general overview of the database landscape, to encourage consistency and interoperability between resources; and to promote the use of semantic and syntactic standards. BioDBCore will make it easier for users to evaluate the scope and relevance of available resources. This new resource will increase the collective impact of the information present in biological databases.
The present article proposes the adoption of a community-defined, uniform, generic description of the core attributes of biological databases, BioDBCore. The goals of these attributes are to provide a general overview of the database landscape, to encourage consistency and interoperability between resources and to promote the use of semantic and syntactic standards. BioDBCore will make it easier for users to evaluate the scope and relevance of available resources. This new resource will increase the collective impact of the information present in biological databases.
The value of any kind of data is greatly enhanced when it exists in a form that allows it to be integrated with other data. One approach to integration is through the annotation of multiple bodies of data using common controlled vocabularies or ‘ontologies’. Unfortunately, the very success of this approach has led to a proliferation of ontologies, which itself creates obstacles to integration. The Open Biomedical Ontologies (OBO) consortium is pursuing a strategy to overcome this problem. Existing OBO ontologies, including the Gene Ontology, are undergoing coordinated reform, and new ontologies are being created on the basis of an evolving set of shared principles governing ontology development. The result is an expanding family of ontologies designed to be interoperable and logically well formed and to incorporate accurate representations of biological reality. We describe this OBO Foundry initiative and provide guidelines for those who might wish to become involved.
A phenotypic ontology that can be used for the analysis of phenotype-genotype data across multiple species, paving the way for truly cross species translational research.
Phenotype ontologies are typically constructed to serve the needs of a particular community, such as annotation of genotype-phenotype associations in mouse or human. Here we demonstrate how these ontologies can be improved through assignment of logical definitions using a core ontology of phenotypic qualities and multiple additional ontologies from the Open Biological Ontologies library. We also show how these logical definitions can be used for data integration when combined with a unified multi-species anatomy ontology.
Protein Analysis THrough Evolutionary Relationships (PANTHER) is a comprehensive software system for inferring the functions of genes based on their evolutionary relationships. Phylogenetic trees of gene families form the basis for PANTHER and these trees are annotated with ontology terms describing the evolution of gene function from ancestral to modern day genes. One of the main applications of PANTHER is in accurate prediction of the functions of uncharacterized genes, based on their evolutionary relationships to genes with functions known from experiment. The PANTHER website, freely available at http://www.pantherdb.org, also includes software tools for analyzing genomic data relative to known and inferred gene functions. Since 2007, there have been several new developments to PANTHER: (i) improved phylogenetic trees, explicitly representing speciation and gene duplication events, (ii) identification of gene orthologs, including least diverged orthologs (best one-to-one pairs), (iii) coverage of more genomes (48 genomes, up to 87% of genes in each genome; see http://www.pantherdb.org/panther/summaryStats.jsp), (iv) improved support for alternative database identifiers for genes, proteins and microarray probes and (v) adoption of the SBGN standard for display of biological pathways. In addition, PANTHER trees are being annotated with gene function as part of the Gene Ontology Reference Genome project, resulting in an increasing number of curated functional annotations.
A novel method for quantifying the similarity between phenotypes by the use of ontologies can be used to search for candidate genes, pathway members, and human disease models on the basis of phenotypes alone.
Scientists and clinicians who study genetic alterations and disease have traditionally described phenotypes in natural language. The considerable variation in these free-text descriptions has posed a hindrance to the important task of identifying candidate genes and models for human diseases and indicates the need for a computationally tractable method to mine data resources for mutant phenotypes. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that ontological annotation of disease phenotypes will facilitate the discovery of new genotype-phenotype relationships within and across species. To describe phenotypes using ontologies, we used an Entity-Quality (EQ) methodology, wherein the affected entity (E) and how it is affected (Q) are recorded using terms from a variety of ontologies. Using this EQ method, we annotated the phenotypes of 11 gene-linked human diseases described in Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man (OMIM). These human annotations were loaded into our Ontology-Based Database (OBD) along with other ontology-based phenotype descriptions of mutants from various model organism databases. Phenotypes recorded with this EQ method can be computationally compared based on the hierarchy of terms in the ontologies and the frequency of annotation. We utilized four similarity metrics to compare phenotypes and developed an ontology of homologous and analogous anatomical structures to compare phenotypes between species. Using these tools, we demonstrate that we can identify, through the similarity of the recorded phenotypes, other alleles of the same gene, other members of a signaling pathway, and orthologous genes and pathway members across species. We conclude that EQ-based annotation of phenotypes, in conjunction with a cross-species ontology, and a variety of similarity metrics can identify biologically meaningful similarities between genes by comparing phenotypes alone. This annotation and search method provides a novel and efficient means to identify gene candidates and animal models of human disease, which may shorten the lengthy path to identification and understanding of the genetic basis of human disease.
Model organisms such as fruit flies, mice, and zebrafish are useful for investigating gene function because they are easy to grow, dissect, and genetically manipulate in the laboratory. By examining mutations in these organisms, one can identify candidate genes that cause disease in humans, and develop models to better understand human disease and gene function. A fundamental roadblock for analysis is, however, the lack of a computational method for describing and comparing phenotypes of mutant animals and of human diseases when the genetic basis is unknown. We describe here a novel method using ontologies to record and quantify the similarity between phenotypes. We tested our method by using the annotated mutant phenotype of one member of the Hedgehog signaling pathway in zebrafish to identify other pathway members with similar recorded phenotypes. We also compared human disease phenotypes to those produced by mutation in model organisms, and show that orthologous and biologically relevant genes can be identified by this method. Given that the genetic basis of human disease is often unknown, this method provides a means for identifying candidate genes, pathway members, and disease models by computationally identifying similar phenotypes within and across species.
The Minimum Information for Biological and Biomedical Investigations (MIBBI) project provides a resource for those exploring the range of extant minimum information checklists and fosters coordinated development of such checklists.
Building momentum to coordinate and leverage community orthology prediction resources.
Better orthology-prediction resources would be beneficial for the whole biological community. A recent meeting discussed how to coordinate and leverage current efforts.
A wide variety of ontologies relevant to the biological and medical domains are available through the OBO Foundry portal, and their number is growing rapidly. Integration of these ontologies, while requiring considerable effort, is extremely desirable. However, heterogeneities in format and style pose serious obstacles to such integration. In particular, inconsistencies in naming conventions can impair the readability and navigability of ontology class hierarchies, and hinder their alignment and integration. While other sources of diversity are tremendously complex and challenging, agreeing a set of common naming conventions is an achievable goal, particularly if those conventions are based on lessons drawn from pooled practical experience and surveys of community opinion.
We summarize a review of existing naming conventions and highlight certain disadvantages with respect to general applicability in the biological domain. We also present the results of a survey carried out to establish which naming conventions are currently employed by OBO Foundry ontologies and to determine what their special requirements regarding the naming of entities might be. Lastly, we propose an initial set of typographic, syntactic and semantic conventions for labelling classes in OBO Foundry ontologies.
Adherence to common naming conventions is more than just a matter of aesthetics. Such conventions provide guidance to ontology creators, help developers avoid flaws and inaccuracies when editing, and especially when interlinking, ontologies. Common naming conventions will also assist consumers of ontologies to more readily understand what meanings were intended by the authors of ontologies used in annotating bodies of data.
AmiGO is a web application that allows users to query, browse and visualize ontologies and related gene product annotation (association) data. AmiGO can be used online at the Gene Ontology (GO) website to access the data provided by the GO Consortium1; it can also be downloaded and installed to browse local ontologies and annotations.2 AmiGO is free open source software developed and maintained by the GO Consortium.
Reactome (http://www.reactome.org) is an expert-authored, peer-reviewed knowledgebase of human reactions and pathways that functions as a data mining resource and electronic textbook. Its current release includes 2975 human proteins, 2907 reactions and 4455 literature citations. A new entity-level pathway viewer and improved search and data mining tools facilitate searching and visualizing pathway data and the analysis of user-supplied high-throughput data sets. Reactome has increased its utility to the model organism communities with improved orthology prediction methods allowing pathway inference for 22 species and through collaborations to create manually curated Reactome pathway datasets for species including Arabidopsis, Oryza sativa (rice), Drosophila and Gallus gallus (chicken). Reactome's data content and software can all be freely used and redistributed under open source terms.
With the quantity of genomic data increasing at an exponential rate, it is imperative that these data be captured electronically, in a standard format. Standardization activities must proceed within the auspices of open-access and international working bodies. To tackle the issues surrounding the development of better descriptions of genomic investigations, we have formed the Genomic Standards Consortium (GSC). Here, we introduce the minimum information about a genome sequence (MIGS) specification with the intent of promoting participation in its development and discussing the resources that will be required to develop improved mechanisms of metadata capture and exchange. As part of its wider goals, the GSC also supports improving the ‘transparency’ of the information contained in existing genomic databases.