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1.  Improving the Adaptability of Simulated Evolutionary Swarm Robots in Dynamically Changing Environments 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e90695.
One of the important challenges in the field of evolutionary robotics is the development of systems that can adapt to a changing environment. However, the ability to adapt to unknown and fluctuating environments is not straightforward. Here, we explore the adaptive potential of simulated swarm robots that contain a genomic encoding of a bio-inspired gene regulatory network (GRN). An artificial genome is combined with a flexible agent-based system, representing the activated part of the regulatory network that transduces environmental cues into phenotypic behaviour. Using an artificial life simulation framework that mimics a dynamically changing environment, we show that separating the static from the conditionally active part of the network contributes to a better adaptive behaviour. Furthermore, in contrast with most hitherto developed ANN-based systems that need to re-optimize their complete controller network from scratch each time they are subjected to novel conditions, our system uses its genome to store GRNs whose performance was optimized under a particular environmental condition for a sufficiently long time. When subjected to a new environment, the previous condition-specific GRN might become inactivated, but remains present. This ability to store ‘good behaviour’ and to disconnect it from the novel rewiring that is essential under a new condition allows faster re-adaptation if any of the previously observed environmental conditions is reencountered. As we show here, applying these evolutionary-based principles leads to accelerated and improved adaptive evolution in a non-stable environment.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0090695
PMCID: PMC3944896  PMID: 24599485
2.  The Complex Intron Landscape and Massive Intron Invasion in a Picoeukaryote Provides Insights into Intron Evolution 
Genome Biology and Evolution  2013;5(12):2393-2401.
Genes in pieces and spliceosomal introns are a landmark of eukaryotes, with intron invasion usually assumed to have happened early on in evolution. Here, we analyze the intron landscape of Micromonas, a unicellular green alga in the Mamiellophyceae lineage, demonstrating the coexistence of several classes of introns and the occurrence of recent massive intron invasion. This study focuses on two strains, CCMP1545 and RCC299, and their related individuals from ocean samplings, showing that they not only harbor different classes of introns depending on their location in the genome, as for other Mamiellophyceae, but also uniquely carry several classes of repeat introns. These introns, dubbed introner elements (IEs), are found at novel positions in genes and have conserved sequences, contrary to canonical introns. This IE invasion has a huge impact on the genome, doubling the number of introns in the CCMP1545 strain. We hypothesize that each IE class originated from a single ancestral IE that has been colonizing the genome after strain divergence by inserting copies of itself into genes by intron transposition, likely involving reverse splicing. Along with similar cases recently observed in other organisms, our observations in Micromonas strains shed a new light on the evolution of introns, suggesting that intron gain is more widespread than previously thought.
doi:10.1093/gbe/evt189
PMCID: PMC3879977  PMID: 24273312
intron evolution; intron gain; Mamiellophyceae; Micromonas; introner elements
3.  Semantically linking molecular entities in literature through entity relationships 
BMC Bioinformatics  2012;13(Suppl 11):S6.
Background
Text mining tools have gained popularity to process the vast amount of available research articles in the biomedical literature. It is crucial that such tools extract information with a sufficient level of detail to be applicable in real life scenarios. Studies of mining non-causal molecular relations attribute to this goal by formally identifying the relations between genes, promoters, complexes and various other molecular entities found in text. More importantly, these studies help to enhance integration of text mining results with database facts.
Results
We describe, compare and evaluate two frameworks developed for the prediction of non-causal or 'entity' relations (REL) between gene symbols and domain terms. For the corresponding REL challenge of the BioNLP Shared Task of 2011, these systems ranked first (57.7% F-score) and second (41.6% F-score). In this paper, we investigate the performance discrepancy of 16 percentage points by benchmarking on a related and more extensive dataset, analysing the contribution of both the term detection and relation extraction modules. We further construct a hybrid system combining the two frameworks and experiment with intersection and union combinations, achieving respectively high-precision and high-recall results. Finally, we highlight extremely high-performance results (F-score >90%) obtained for the specific subclass of embedded entity relations that are essential for integrating text mining predictions with database facts.
Conclusions
The results from this study will enable us in the near future to annotate semantic relations between molecular entities in the entire scientific literature available through PubMed. The recent release of the EVEX dataset, containing biomolecular event predictions for millions of PubMed articles, is an interesting and exciting opportunity to overlay these entity relations with event predictions on a literature-wide scale.
doi:10.1186/1471-2105-13-S11-S6
PMCID: PMC3384255  PMID: 22759460
4.  The Medicago Genome Provides Insight into the Evolution of Rhizobial Symbioses 
Young, Nevin D. | Debellé, Frédéric | Oldroyd, Giles E. D. | Geurts, Rene | Cannon, Steven B. | Udvardi, Michael K. | Benedito, Vagner A. | Mayer, Klaus F. X. | Gouzy, Jérôme | Schoof, Heiko | Van de Peer, Yves | Proost, Sebastian | Cook, Douglas R. | Meyers, Blake C. | Spannagl, Manuel | Cheung, Foo | De Mita, Stéphane | Krishnakumar, Vivek | Gundlach, Heidrun | Zhou, Shiguo | Mudge, Joann | Bharti, Arvind K. | Murray, Jeremy D. | Naoumkina, Marina A. | Rosen, Benjamin | Silverstein, Kevin A. T. | Tang, Haibao | Rombauts, Stephane | Zhao, Patrick X. | Zhou, Peng | Barbe, Valérie | Bardou, Philippe | Bechner, Michael | Bellec, Arnaud | Berger, Anne | Bergès, Hélène | Bidwell, Shelby | Bisseling, Ton | Choisne, Nathalie | Couloux, Arnaud | Denny, Roxanne | Deshpande, Shweta | Dai, Xinbin | Doyle, Jeff | Dudez, Anne-Marie | Farmer, Andrew D. | Fouteau, Stéphanie | Franken, Carolien | Gibelin, Chrystel | Gish, John | Goldstein, Steven | González, Alvaro J. | Green, Pamela J. | Hallab, Asis | Hartog, Marijke | Hua, Axin | Humphray, Sean | Jeong, Dong-Hoon | Jing, Yi | Jöcker, Anika | Kenton, Steve M. | Kim, Dong-Jin | Klee, Kathrin | Lai, Hongshing | Lang, Chunting | Lin, Shaoping | Macmil, Simone L | Magdelenat, Ghislaine | Matthews, Lucy | McCorrison, Jamison | Monaghan, Erin L. | Mun, Jeong-Hwan | Najar, Fares Z. | Nicholson, Christine | Noirot, Céline | O’Bleness, Majesta | Paule, Charles R. | Poulain, Julie | Prion, Florent | Qin, Baifang | Qu, Chunmei | Retzel, Ernest F. | Riddle, Claire | Sallet, Erika | Samain, Sylvie | Samson, Nicolas | Sanders, Iryna | Saurat, Olivier | Scarpelli, Claude | Schiex, Thomas | Segurens, Béatrice | Severin, Andrew J. | Sherrier, D. Janine | Shi, Ruihua | Sims, Sarah | Singer, Susan R. | Sinharoy, Senjuti | Sterck, Lieven | Viollet, Agnès | Wang, Bing-Bing | Wang, Keqin | Wang, Mingyi | Wang, Xiaohong | Warfsmann, Jens | Weissenbach, Jean | White, Doug D. | White, Jim D. | Wiley, Graham B. | Wincker, Patrick | Xing, Yanbo | Yang, Limei | Yao, Ziyun | Ying, Fu | Zhai, Jixian | Zhou, Liping | Zuber, Antoine | Dénarié, Jean | Dixon, Richard A. | May, Gregory D. | Schwartz, David C. | Rogers, Jane | Quétier, Francis | Town, Christopher D. | Roe, Bruce A.
Nature  2011;480(7378):520-524.
Legumes (Fabaceae or Leguminosae) are unique among cultivated plants for their ability to carry out endosymbiotic nitrogen fixation with rhizobial bacteria, a process that takes place in a specialized structure known as the nodule. Legumes belong to one of the two main groups of eurosids, the Fabidae, which includes most species capable of endosymbiotic nitrogen fixation 1. Legumes comprise several evolutionary lineages derived from a common ancestor 60 million years ago (Mya). Papilionoids are the largest clade, dating nearly to the origin of legumes and containing most cultivated species 2. Medicago truncatula (Mt) is a long-established model for the study of legume biology. Here we describe the draft sequence of the Mt euchromatin based on a recently completed BAC-assembly supplemented with Illumina-shotgun sequence, together capturing ~94% of all Mt genes. A whole-genome duplication (WGD) approximately 58 Mya played a major role in shaping the Mt genome and thereby contributed to the evolution of endosymbiotic nitrogen fixation. Subsequent to the WGD, the Mt genome experienced higher levels of rearrangement than two other sequenced legumes, Glycine max (Gm) and Lotus japonicus (Lj). Mt is a close relative of alfalfa (M. sativa), a widely cultivated crop with limited genomics tools and complex autotetraploid genetics. As such, the Mt genome sequence provides significant opportunities to expand alfalfa’s genomic toolbox.
doi:10.1038/nature10625
PMCID: PMC3272368  PMID: 22089132
5.  Exploring Biomolecular Literature with EVEX: Connecting Genes through Events, Homology, and Indirect Associations 
Advances in Bioinformatics  2012;2012:582765.
Technological advancements in the field of genetics have led not only to an abundance of experimental data, but also caused an exponential increase of the number of published biomolecular studies. Text mining is widely accepted as a promising technique to help researchers in the life sciences deal with the amount of available literature. This paper presents a freely available web application built on top of 21.3 million detailed biomolecular events extracted from all PubMed abstracts. These text mining results were generated by a state-of-the-art event extraction system and enriched with gene family associations and abstract generalizations, accounting for lexical variants and synonymy. The EVEX resource locates relevant literature on phosphorylation, regulation targets, binding partners, and several other biomolecular events and assigns confidence values to these events. The search function accepts official gene/protein symbols as well as common names from all species. Finally, the web application is a powerful tool for generating homology-based hypotheses as well as novel, indirect associations between genes and proteins such as coregulators.
doi:10.1155/2012/582765
PMCID: PMC3375141  PMID: 22719757
6.  A mystery unveiled 
Genome Biology  2011;12(5):113.
A recent phylogenomic study has provided new evidence for two ancient whole genome duplications in plants, with potential importance for the evolution of seed and flowering plants.
doi:10.1186/gb-2011-12-5-113
PMCID: PMC3219959  PMID: 21635712
7.  Evaluation and Properties of the Budding Yeast Phosphoproteome* 
Molecular & Cellular Proteomics : MCP  2012;11(6):M111.009555.
We have assembled a reliable phosphoproteomic data set for budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae and have investigated its properties. Twelve publicly available phosphoproteome data sets were triaged to obtain a subset of high-confidence phosphorylation sites (p-sites), free of “noisy” phosphorylations. Analysis of this combined data set suggests that the inventory of phosphoproteins in yeast is close to completion, but that these proteins may have many undiscovered p-sites. Proteins involved in budding and protein kinase activity have high numbers of p-sites and are highly over-represented in the vast majority of the yeast phosphoproteome data sets. The yeast phosphoproteome is characterized by a few proteins with many p-sites and many proteins with a few p-sites. We confirm a tendency for p-sites to cluster together and find evidence that kinases may phosphorylate off-target amino acids that are within one or two residues of their cognate target. This suggests that the precise position of the phosphorylated amino acid is not a stringent requirement for regulatory fidelity. Compared with nonphosphorylated proteins, phosphoproteins are more ancient, more abundant, have longer unstructured regions, have more genetic interactions, more protein interactions, and are under tighter post-translational regulation. It appears that phosphoproteins constitute the raw material for pathway rewiring and adaptation at various evolutionary rates.
doi:10.1074/mcp.M111.009555
PMCID: PMC3433898  PMID: 22286756
8.  Deconstruction of the (Paleo)Polyploid Grapevine Genome Based on the Analysis of Transposition Events Involving NBS Resistance Genes 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(1):e29762.
Plants have followed a reticulate type of evolution and taxa have frequently merged via allopolyploidization. A polyploid structure of sequenced genomes has often been proposed, but the chromosomes belonging to putative component genomes are difficult to identify. The 19 grapevine chromosomes are evolutionary stable structures: their homologous triplets have strongly conserved gene order, interrupted by rare translocations. The aim of this study is to examine how the grapevine nucleotide-binding site (NBS)-encoding resistance (NBS-R) genes have evolved in the genomic context and to understand mechanisms for the genome evolution. We show that, in grapevine, i) helitrons have significantly contributed to transposition of NBS-R genes, and ii) NBS-R gene cluster similarity indicates the existence of two groups of chromosomes (named as Va and Vc) that may have evolved independently. Chromosome triplets consist of two Va and one Vc chromosomes, as expected from the tetraploid and diploid conditions of the two component genomes. The hexaploid state could have been derived from either allopolyploidy or the separation of the Va and Vc component genomes in the same nucleus before fusion, as known for Rosaceae species. Time estimation indicates that grapevine component genomes may have fused about 60 mya, having had at least 40–60 mya to evolve independently. Chromosome number variation in the Vitaceae and related families, and the gap between the time of eudicot radiation and the age of Vitaceae fossils, are accounted for by our hypothesis.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0029762
PMCID: PMC3256180  PMID: 22253773
9.  i-ADHoRe 3.0—fast and sensitive detection of genomic homology in extremely large data sets 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;40(2):e11.
Comparative genomics is a powerful means to gain insight into the evolutionary processes that shape the genomes of related species. As the number of sequenced genomes increases, the development of software to perform accurate cross-species analyses becomes indispensable. However, many implementations that have the ability to compare multiple genomes exhibit unfavorable computational and memory requirements, limiting the number of genomes that can be analyzed in one run. Here, we present a software package to unveil genomic homology based on the identification of conservation of gene content and gene order (collinearity), i-ADHoRe 3.0, and its application to eukaryotic genomes. The use of efficient algorithms and support for parallel computing enable the analysis of large-scale data sets. Unlike other tools, i-ADHoRe can process the Ensembl data set, containing 49 species, in 1 h. Furthermore, the profile search is more sensitive to detect degenerate genomic homology than chaining pairwise collinearity information based on transitive homology. From ultra-conserved collinear regions between mammals and birds, by integrating coexpression information and protein–protein interactions, we identified more than 400 regions in the human genome showing significant functional coherence. The different algorithmical improvements ensure that i-ADHoRe 3.0 will remain a powerful tool to study genome evolution.
doi:10.1093/nar/gkr955
PMCID: PMC3258164  PMID: 22102584
10.  GenomeView: a next-generation genome browser 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;40(2):e12.
Due to ongoing advances in sequencing technologies, billions of nucleotide sequences are now produced on a daily basis. A major challenge is to visualize these data for further downstream analysis. To this end, we present GenomeView, a stand-alone genome browser specifically designed to visualize and manipulate a multitude of genomics data. GenomeView enables users to dynamically browse high volumes of aligned short-read data, with dynamic navigation and semantic zooming, from the whole genome level to the single nucleotide. At the same time, the tool enables visualization of whole genome alignments of dozens of genomes relative to a reference sequence. GenomeView is unique in its capability to interactively handle huge data sets consisting of tens of aligned genomes, thousands of annotation features and millions of mapped short reads both as viewer and editor. GenomeView is freely available as an open source software package.
doi:10.1093/nar/gkr995
PMCID: PMC3258165  PMID: 22102585
12.  Structural and functional organization of RNA regulons in the post-transcriptional regulatory network of yeast 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;39(21):9108-9117.
Post-transcriptional control of mRNA transcript processing by RNA binding proteins (RBPs) is an important step in the regulation of gene expression and protein production. The post-transcriptional regulatory network is similar in complexity to the transcriptional regulatory network and is thought to be organized in RNA regulons, coherent sets of functionally related mRNAs combinatorially regulated by common RBPs. We integrated genome-wide transcriptional and translational expression data in yeast with large-scale regulatory networks of transcription factor and RBP binding interactions to analyze the functional organization of post-transcriptional regulation and RNA regulons at a system level. We found that post-transcriptional feedback loops and mixed bifan motifs are overrepresented in the integrated regulatory network and control the coordinated translation of RNA regulons, manifested as clusters of functionally related mRNAs which are strongly coexpressed in the translatome data. These translatome clusters are more functionally coherent than transcriptome clusters and are expressed with higher mRNA and protein levels and less noise. Our results show how the post-transcriptional network is intertwined with the transcriptional network to regulate gene expression in a coordinated way and that the integration of heterogeneous genome-wide datasets allows to relate structure to function in regulatory networks at a system level.
doi:10.1093/nar/gkr661
PMCID: PMC3241661  PMID: 21840901
13.  Context-dependent codon partition models provide significant increases in model fit in atpB and rbcL protein-coding genes 
Background
Accurate modelling of substitution processes in protein-coding sequences is often hampered by the computational burdens associated with full codon models. Lately, codon partition models have been proposed as a viable alternative, mimicking the substitution behaviour of codon models at a low computational cost. Such codon partition models however impose independent evolution of the different codon positions, which is overly restrictive from a biological point of view. Given that empirical research has provided indications of context-dependent substitution patterns at four-fold degenerate sites, we take those indications into account in this paper.
Results
We present so-called context-dependent codon partition models to assess previous empirical claims that the evolution of four-fold degenerate sites is strongly dependent on the composition of its two flanking bases. To this end, we have estimated and compared various existing independent models, codon models, codon partition models and context-dependent codon partition models for the atpB and rbcL genes of the chloroplast genome, which are frequently used in plant systematics. Such context-dependent codon partition models employ a full dependency scheme for four-fold degenerate sites, whilst maintaining the independence assumption for the first and second codon positions.
Conclusions
We show that, both in the atpB and rbcL alignments of a collection of land plants, these context-dependent codon partition models significantly improve model fit over existing codon partition models. Using Bayes factors based on thermodynamic integration, we show that in both datasets the same context-dependent codon partition model yields the largest increase in model fit compared to an independent evolutionary model. Context-dependent codon partition models hence perform closer to codon models, which remain the best performing models at a drastically increased computational cost, compared to codon partition models, but remain computationally interesting alternatives to codon models. Finally, we observe that the substitution patterns in both datasets are drastically different, leading to the conclusion that combined analysis of these two genes using a single model may not be advisable from a context-dependent point of view.
doi:10.1186/1471-2148-11-145
PMCID: PMC3126739  PMID: 21619569
14.  The Potential for pathogenicity was present in the ancestor of the Ascomycete subphylum Pezizomycotina 
Background
Previous studies in Ascomycetes have shown that the function of gene families of which the size is considerably larger in extant pathogens than in non-pathogens could be related to pathogenicity traits. However, by only comparing gene inventories in extant species, no insights can be gained into the evolutionary process that gave rise to these larger family sizes in pathogens. Moreover, most studies which consider gene families in extant species only tend to explain observed differences in gene family sizes by gains rather than by losses, hereby largely underestimating the impact of gene loss during genome evolution.
Results
In our study we used a selection of recently published genomes of Ascomycetes to analyze how gene family gains, duplications and losses have affected the origin of pathogenic traits. By analyzing the evolutionary history of gene families we found that most gene families with an enlarged size in pathogens were present in an ancestor common to both pathogens and non-pathogens. The majority of these families were selectively maintained in pathogenic lineages, but disappeared in non-pathogens. Non-pathogen-specific losses largely outnumbered pathogen-specific losses.
Conclusions
We conclude that most of the proteins for pathogenicity were already present in the ancestor of the Ascomycete lineages we used in our study. Species that did not develop pathogenicity seemed to have reduced their genetic complexity compared to their ancestors. We further show that expansion of gained or already existing families in a species-specific way is important to fine-tune the specificities of the pathogenic host-fungus interaction.
doi:10.1186/1471-2148-10-318
PMCID: PMC3087541  PMID: 20964831
16.  Discriminative and informative features for biomolecular text mining with ensemble feature selection 
Bioinformatics  2010;26(18):i554-i560.
Motivation: In the field of biomolecular text mining, black box behavior of machine learning systems currently limits understanding of the true nature of the predictions. However, feature selection (FS) is capable of identifying the most relevant features in any supervised learning setting, providing insight into the specific properties of the classification algorithm. This allows us to build more accurate classifiers while at the same time bridging the gap between the black box behavior and the end-user who has to interpret the results.
Results: We show that our FS methodology successfully discards a large fraction of machine-generated features, improving classification performance of state-of-the-art text mining algorithms. Furthermore, we illustrate how FS can be applied to gain understanding in the predictions of a framework for biomolecular event extraction from text. We include numerous examples of highly discriminative features that model either biological reality or common linguistic constructs. Finally, we discuss a number of insights from our FS analyses that will provide the opportunity to considerably improve upon current text mining tools.
Availability: The FS algorithms and classifiers are available in Java-ML (http://java-ml.sf.net). The datasets are publicly available from the BioNLP'09 Shared Task web site (http://www-tsujii.is.s.u-tokyo.ac.jp/GENIA/SharedTask/).
Contact: yves.vandepeer@psb.ugent.be
doi:10.1093/bioinformatics/btq381
PMCID: PMC2935429  PMID: 20823321
17.  Prediction of a gene regulatory network linked to prostate cancer from gene expression, microRNA and clinical data 
Bioinformatics  2010;26(18):i638-i644.
Motivation: Cancer is a complex disease, triggered by mutations in multiple genes and pathways. There is a growing interest in the application of systems biology approaches to analyze various types of cancer-related data to understand the overwhelming complexity of changes induced by the disease.
Results: We reconstructed a regulatory module network using gene expression, microRNA expression and a clinical parameter, all measured in lymphoblastoid cell lines derived from patients having aggressive or non-aggressive forms of prostate cancer. Our analysis identified several modules enriched in cell cycle-related genes as well as novel functional categories that might be linked to prostate cancer. Almost one-third of the regulators predicted to control the expression levels of the modules are microRNAs. Several of them have already been characterized as causal in various diseases, including cancer. We also predicted novel microRNAs that have never been associated to this type of tumor. Furthermore, the condition-dependent expression of several modules could be linked to the value of a clinical parameter characterizing the aggressiveness of the prostate cancer. Taken together, our results help to shed light on the consequences of aggressive and non-aggressive forms of prostate cancer.
Availability: The complete regulatory network is available as an interactive supplementary web site at the following URL: http://bioinformatics.psb.ugent.be/webtools/pronet/
Contact: yves.vandepeer@psb.vib-ugent.be
doi:10.1093/bioinformatics/btq395
PMCID: PMC2935430  PMID: 20823333
18.  Modelling the ancestral sequence distribution and model frequencies in context-dependent models for primate non-coding sequences 
Background
Recent approaches for context-dependent evolutionary modelling assume that the evolution of a given site depends upon its ancestor and that ancestor's immediate flanking sites. Because such dependency pattern cannot be imposed on the root sequence, we consider the use of different orders of Markov chains to model dependence at the ancestral root sequence. Root distributions which are coupled to the context-dependent model across the underlying phylogenetic tree are deemed more realistic than decoupled Markov chains models, as the evolutionary process is responsible for shaping the composition of the ancestral root sequence.
Results
We find strong support, in terms of Bayes Factors, for using a second-order Markov chain at the ancestral root sequence along with a context-dependent model throughout the remainder of the phylogenetic tree in an ancestral repeats dataset, and for using a first-order Markov chain at the ancestral root sequence in a pseudogene dataset. Relaxing the assumption of a single context-independent set of independent model frequencies as presented in previous work, yields a further drastic increase in model fit. We show that the substitution rates associated with the CpG-methylation-deamination process can be modelled through context-dependent model frequencies and that their accuracy depends on the (order of the) Markov chain imposed at the ancestral root sequence. In addition, we provide evidence that this approach (which assumes that root distribution and evolutionary model are decoupled) outperforms an approach inspired by the work of Arndt et al., where the root distribution is coupled to the evolutionary model. We show that the continuous-time approximation of Hwang and Green has stronger support in terms of Bayes Factors, but the parameter estimates show minimal differences.
Conclusions
We show that the combination of a dependency scheme at the ancestral root sequence and a context-dependent evolutionary model across the remainder of the tree allows for accurate estimation of the model's parameters. The different assumptions tested in this manuscript clearly show that designing accurate context-dependent models is a complex process, with many different assumptions that require validation. Further, these assumptions are shown to change across different datasets, making the search for an adequate model for a given dataset quite challenging.
doi:10.1186/1471-2148-10-244
PMCID: PMC2928787  PMID: 20698960
19.  The hidden duplication past of the plant pathogen Phytophthora and its consequences for infection 
BMC Genomics  2010;11:353.
Background
Oomycetes of the genus Phytophthora are pathogens that infect a wide range of plant species. For dicot hosts such as tomato, potato and soybean, Phytophthora is even the most important pathogen. Previous analyses of Phytophthora genomes uncovered many genes, large gene families and large genome sizes that can partially be explained by significant repeat expansion patterns.
Results
Analysis of the complete genomes of three different Phytophthora species, using a newly developed approach, unveiled a large number of small duplicated blocks, mainly consisting of two or three consecutive genes. Further analysis of these duplicated genes and comparison with the known gene and genome duplication history of ten other eukaryotes including parasites, algae, plants, fungi, vertebrates and invertebrates, suggests that the ancestor of P. infestans, P. sojae and P. ramorum most likely underwent a whole genome duplication (WGD). Genes that have survived in duplicate are mainly genes that are known to be preferentially retained following WGDs, but also genes important for pathogenicity and infection of the different hosts seem to have been retained in excess. As a result, the WGD might have contributed to the evolutionary and pathogenic success of Phytophthora.
Conclusions
The fact that we find many small blocks of duplicated genes indicates that the genomes of Phytophthora species have been heavily rearranged following the WGD. Most likely, the high repeat content in these genomes have played an important role in this rearrangement process. As a consequence, the paucity of retained larger duplicated blocks has greatly complicated previous attempts to detect remnants of a large-scale duplication event in Phytophthora. However, as we show here, our newly developed strategy to identify very small duplicated blocks might be a useful approach to uncover ancient polyploidy events, in particular for heavily rearranged genomes.
doi:10.1186/1471-2164-11-353
PMCID: PMC2996974  PMID: 20525264
20.  Module Network Inference from a Cancer Gene Expression Data Set Identifies MicroRNA Regulated Modules 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(4):e10162.
Background
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small RNAs that recognize and regulate mRNA target genes. Multiple lines of evidence indicate that they are key regulators of numerous critical functions in development and disease, including cancer. However, defining the place and function of miRNAs in complex regulatory networks is not straightforward. Systems approaches, like the inference of a module network from expression data, can help to achieve this goal.
Methodology/Principal Findings
During the last decade, much progress has been made in the development of robust and powerful module network inference algorithms. In this study, we analyze and assess experimentally a module network inferred from both miRNA and mRNA expression data, using our recently developed module network inference algorithm based on probabilistic optimization techniques. We show that several miRNAs are predicted as statistically significant regulators for various modules of tightly co-expressed genes. A detailed analysis of three of those modules demonstrates that the specific assignment of miRNAs is functionally coherent and supported by literature. We further designed a set of experiments to test the assignment of miR-200a as the top regulator of a small module of nine genes. The results strongly suggest that miR-200a is regulating the module genes via the transcription factor ZEB1. Interestingly, this module is most likely involved in epithelial homeostasis and its dysregulation might contribute to the malignant process in cancer cells.
Conclusions/Significance
Our results show that a robust module network analysis of expression data can provide novel insights of miRNA function in important cellular processes. Such a computational approach, starting from expression data alone, can be helpful in the process of identifying the function of miRNAs by suggesting modules of co-expressed genes in which they play a regulatory role. As shown in this study, those modules can then be tested experimentally to further investigate and refine the function of the miRNA in the regulatory network.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0010162
PMCID: PMC2854686  PMID: 20418949
21.  Predicting protein-protein interactions in Arabidopsis thaliana through integration of orthology, gene ontology and co-expression 
BMC Genomics  2009;10:288.
Background
Large-scale identification of the interrelationships between different components of the cell, such as the interactions between proteins, has recently gained great interest. However, unraveling large-scale protein-protein interaction maps is laborious and expensive. Moreover, assessing the reliability of the interactions can be cumbersome.
Results
In this study, we have developed a computational method that exploits the existing knowledge on protein-protein interactions in diverse species through orthologous relations on the one hand, and functional association data on the other hand to predict and filter protein-protein interactions in Arabidopsis thaliana. A highly reliable set of protein-protein interactions is predicted through this integrative approach making use of existing protein-protein interaction data from yeast, human, C. elegans and D. melanogaster. Localization, biological process, and co-expression data are used as powerful indicators for protein-protein interactions. The functional repertoire of the identified interactome reveals interactions between proteins functioning in well-conserved as well as plant-specific biological processes. We observe that although common mechanisms (e.g. actin polymerization) and components (e.g. ARPs, actin-related proteins) exist between different lineages, they are active in specific processes such as growth, cancer metastasis and trichome development in yeast, human and Arabidopsis, respectively.
Conclusion
We conclude that the integration of orthology with functional association data is adequate to predict protein-protein interactions. Through this approach, a high number of novel protein-protein interactions with diverse biological roles is discovered. Overall, we have predicted a reliable set of protein-protein interactions suitable for further computational as well as experimental analyses.
doi:10.1186/1471-2164-10-288
PMCID: PMC2719670  PMID: 19563678
22.  Meta Analysis of Gene Expression Data within and Across Species 
Current Genomics  2008;9(8):525-534.
Since the second half of the 1990s, a large number of genome-wide analyses have been described that study gene expression at the transcript level. To this end, two major strategies have been adopted, a first one relying on hybridization techniques such as microarrays, and a second one based on sequencing techniques such as serial analysis of gene expression (SAGE), cDNA-AFLP, and analysis based on expressed sequence tags (ESTs). Despite both types of profiling experiments becoming routine techniques in many research groups, their application remains costly and laborious. As a result, the number of conditions profiled in individual studies is still relatively small and usually varies from only two to few hundreds of samples for the largest experiments. More and more, scientific journals require the deposit of these high throughput experiments in public databases upon publication. Mining the information present in these databases offers molecular biologists the possibility to view their own small-scale analysis in the light of what is already available. However, so far, the richness of the public information remains largely unexploited. Several obstacles such as the correct association between ESTs and microarray probes with the corresponding gene transcript, the incompleteness and inconsistency in the annotation of experimental conditions, and the lack of standardized experimental protocols to generate gene expression data, all impede the successful mining of these data. Here, we review the potential and difficulties of combining publicly available expression data from respectively EST analyses and microarray experiments. With examples from literature, we show how meta-analysis of expression profiling experiments can be used to study expression behavior in a single organism or between organisms, across a wide range of experimental conditions. We also provide an overview of the methods and tools that can aid molecular biologists in exploiting these public data.
doi:10.2174/138920208786847935
PMCID: PMC2694560  PMID: 19516959
23.  Toward a gold standard for promoter prediction evaluation 
Bioinformatics  2009;25(12):i313-i320.
Motivation: Promoter prediction is an important task in genome annotation projects, and during the past years many new promoter prediction programs (PPPs) have emerged. However, many of these programs are compared inadequately to other programs. In most cases, only a small portion of the genome is used to evaluate the program, which is not a realistic setting for whole genome annotation projects. In addition, a common evaluation design to properly compare PPPs is still lacking.
Results: We present a large-scale benchmarking study of 17 state-of-the-art PPPs. A multi-faceted evaluation strategy is proposed that can be used as a gold standard for promoter prediction evaluation, allowing authors of promoter prediction software to compare their method to existing methods in a proper way. This evaluation strategy is subsequently used to compare the chosen promoter predictors, and an in-depth analysis on predictive performance, promoter class specificity, overlap between predictors and positional bias of the predictions is conducted.
Availability: We provide the implementations of the four protocols, as well as the datasets required to perform the benchmarks to the academic community free of charge on request.
Contact: yves.vandepeer@psb.ugent.be
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
doi:10.1093/bioinformatics/btp191
PMCID: PMC2687945  PMID: 19478005
24.  Comparative analysis of module-based versus direct methods for reverse-engineering transcriptional regulatory networks 
BMC Systems Biology  2009;3:49.
Background
A myriad of methods to reverse-engineer transcriptional regulatory networks have been developed in recent years. Direct methods directly reconstruct a network of pairwise regulatory interactions while module-based methods predict a set of regulators for modules of coexpressed genes treated as a single unit. To date, there has been no systematic comparison of the relative strengths and weaknesses of both types of methods.
Results
We have compared a recently developed module-based algorithm, LeMoNe (Learning Module Networks), to a mutual information based direct algorithm, CLR (Context Likelihood of Relatedness), using benchmark expression data and databases of known transcriptional regulatory interactions for Escherichia coli and Saccharomyces cerevisiae. A global comparison using recall versus precision curves hides the topologically distinct nature of the inferred networks and is not informative about the specific subtasks for which each method is most suited. Analysis of the degree distributions and a regulator specific comparison show that CLR is 'regulator-centric', making true predictions for a higher number of regulators, while LeMoNe is 'target-centric', recovering a higher number of known targets for fewer regulators, with limited overlap in the predicted interactions between both methods. Detailed biological examples in E. coli and S. cerevisiae are used to illustrate these differences and to prove that each method is able to infer parts of the network where the other fails. Biological validation of the inferred networks cautions against over-interpreting recall and precision values computed using incomplete reference networks.
Conclusion
Our results indicate that module-based and direct methods retrieve largely distinct parts of the underlying transcriptional regulatory networks. The choice of algorithm should therefore be based on the particular biological problem of interest and not on global metrics which cannot be transferred between organisms. The development of sound statistical methods for integrating the predictions of different reverse-engineering strategies emerges as an important challenge for future research.
doi:10.1186/1752-0509-3-49
PMCID: PMC2684101  PMID: 19422680
25.  Efficient context-dependent model building based on clustering posterior distributions for non-coding sequences 
Background
Many recent studies that relax the assumption of independent evolution of sites have done so at the expense of a drastic increase in the number of substitution parameters. While additional parameters cannot be avoided to model context-dependent evolution, a large increase in model dimensionality is only justified when accompanied with careful model-building strategies that guard against overfitting. An increased dimensionality leads to increases in numerical computations of the models, increased convergence times in Bayesian Markov chain Monte Carlo algorithms and even more tedious Bayes Factor calculations.
Results
We have developed two model-search algorithms which reduce the number of Bayes Factor calculations by clustering posterior densities to decide on the equality of substitution behavior in different contexts. The selected model's fit is evaluated using a Bayes Factor, which we calculate via model-switch thermodynamic integration. To reduce computation time and to increase the precision of this integration, we propose to split the calculations over different computers and to appropriately calibrate the individual runs. Using the proposed strategies, we find, in a dataset of primate Ancestral Repeats, that careful modeling of context-dependent evolution may increase model fit considerably and that the combination of a context-dependent model with the assumption of varying rates across sites offers even larger improvements in terms of model fit. Using a smaller nuclear SSU rRNA dataset, we show that context-dependence may only become detectable upon applying model-building strategies.
Conclusion
While context-dependent evolutionary models can increase the model fit over traditional independent evolutionary models, such complex models will often contain too many parameters. Justification for the added parameters is thus required so that only those parameters that model evolutionary processes previously unaccounted for are added to the evolutionary model. To obtain an optimal balance between the number of parameters in a context-dependent model and the performance in terms of model fit, we have designed two parameter-reduction strategies and we have shown that model fit can be greatly improved by reducing the number of parameters in a context-dependent evolutionary model.
doi:10.1186/1471-2148-9-87
PMCID: PMC2695821  PMID: 19405957

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