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1.  InterPro in 2017—beyond protein family and domain annotations 
Nucleic Acids Research  2016;45(Database issue):D190-D199.
InterPro ( is a freely available database used to classify protein sequences into families and to predict the presence of important domains and sites. InterProScan is the underlying software that allows both protein and nucleic acid sequences to be searched against InterPro's predictive models, which are provided by its member databases. Here, we report recent developments with InterPro and its associated software, including the addition of two new databases (SFLD and CDD), and the functionality to include residue-level annotation and prediction of intrinsic disorder. These developments enrich the annotations provided by InterPro, increase the overall number of residues annotated and allow more specific functional inferences.
PMCID: PMC5210578  PMID: 27899635
2.  Identifying ELIXIR Core Data Resources 
F1000Research  2016;5:ELIXIR-2422.
The core mission of ELIXIR is to build a stable and sustainable infrastructure for biological information across Europe. At the heart of this are the data resources, tools and services that ELIXIR offers to the life-sciences community, providing stable and sustainable access to biological data. ELIXIR aims to ensure that these resources are available long-term and that the life-cycles of these resources are managed such that they support the scientific needs of the life-sciences, including biological research.
ELIXIR Core Data Resources are defined as a set of European data resources that are of fundamental importance to the wider life-science community and the long-term preservation of biological data. They are complete collections of generic value to life-science, are considered an authority in their field with respect to one or more characteristics, and show high levels of scientific quality and service. Thus, ELIXIR Core Data Resources are of wide applicability and usage.
This paper describes the structures, governance and processes that support the identification and evaluation of ELIXIR Core Data Resources. It identifies key indicators which reflect the essence of the definition of an ELIXIR Core Data Resource and support the promotion of excellence in resource development and operation. It describes the specific indicators in more detail and explains their application within ELIXIR’s sustainability strategy and science policy actions, and in capacity building, life-cycle management and technical actions.
Establishing the portfolio of ELIXIR Core Data Resources and ELIXIR Services is a key priority for ELIXIR and publicly marks the transition towards a cohesive infrastructure.
PMCID: PMC5070591  PMID: 27803796
ELIXIR; Sustainability; Data resources; Indicators; Capacity building; Infrastructure; Bioinformatics; Life sciences
3.  On putative periodontal pathogens: an epidemiological perspective 
Virulence  2015;6(3):249-257.
The current understanding on the role of microbiology on periodontitis causation is reviewed. An appraisal of the literature reveals several issues that have limited the attempts to investigate candidate periodontal pathogens as causes of periodontitis and confirms that only limited epidemiological evidence is available. Several aspects of the contemporary understanding on causal inference are discussed with examples for periodontitis.
PMCID: PMC4601192  PMID: 25874553
causality; cohort studies; epidemiology; germ theory of disease; infection; periodontitis
4.  Label-free detection and identification of protein ligands captured by receptors in a polymerized planar lipid bilayer using MALDI-TOF MS 
Analytical and bioanalytical chemistry  2015;407(10):2777-2789.
Matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization-time of flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS) coupled with affinity capture is a well-established method to extract biological analytes from complex samples followed by label-free detection and identification. Many bioanalytes of interest bind to membrane-associated receptors, however, the matrices and high vacuum conditions inherent to MALDI-TOF MS make it largely incompatible with the use of artificial lipid membranes with incorporated receptors as platforms for detection of captured proteins and peptides. Here we show that cross-linking polymerization of a planar supported lipid bilayer (PSLB) provides the stability needed for MALDI-TOF MS analysis of proteins captured by receptors embedded in the membrane. PSLBs composed of poly(bis-SorbPC) and doped with the ganglioside receptors GM1 and GD1a were used for affinity capture of the B-subunits of cholera toxin, heat-labile enterotoxin, and pertussis toxin. The three toxins were captured simultaneously, then detected and identified by MS based on differences in their molecular weights. Poly(bis-SorbPC) PSLBs are inherently resistant to nonspecific protein adsorption, which allowed selective toxin detection to be achieved in complex matrices (bovine serum and shrimp extract). Using GM1-cholera toxin B as a model receptor-ligand pair, the minimal detectable concentration of toxin was estimated to be 4 nM. On-plate trypsin digestion of bound cholera toxin B followed by MS/MS analysis of digested peptides was performed successfully, demonstrating the feasibility of using the PSLB-based affinity capture platform for identification of unknown, membrane-associated proteins. Overall, this work demonstrates that combining a poly(lipid) affinity capture platform with MALDI-TOF MS detection is a viable approach for capture and proteomic characterization of membrane-associated proteins in a label-free manner.
PMCID: PMC4417943  PMID: 25694144
polymerizable lipid; planar lipid bilayer; MALDI; ganglioside receptor; bacterial toxin
5.  Using EMBL-EBI services via Web interface and programmatically via Web Services 
The European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) provides access to a wide range of databases and analysis tools that are of key importance in bioinformatics. As well as providing Web interfaces to these resources, Web Services are available using SOAP and REST protocols that enable programmatic access to our resources and allow their integration into other applications and analytical workflows.
This unit describes the various options available to a typical researcher or bioinformatician who wishes to use our resources via Web interface or programmatically via a range of programming languages.
PMCID: PMC4312015  PMID: 25501941
Web Services; Programmatic access; SOAP; REST; analytical pipelines; workflows
6.  Novel small molecules disrupting Hec1/Nek2 interaction ablate tumor progression by triggering Nek2 degradation through a death-trap mechanism 
Oncogene  2014;34(10):1220-1230.
Hec1 (Highly Expressed in Cancer 1) or Nek2 (NIMA-related kinase 2) is often overexpressed in cancers with poor prognosis. Both are critical mitotic regulators and phosphorylation of Hec1 S165 by Nek2 is required for proper chromosome segregation. Therefore, inactivation of Hec1 and Nek2 by targeting their interaction with small molecules represents an ideal strategy for tackling these types of cancers. Here, we showed that new derivatives of INH (Inhibitor for Nek2 and Hec1 binding) bind to Hec1 at amino acids 394–408 on W395, L399 and K400 residues, effectively blocking Hec1 phosphorylation on S165 by Nek2, and killing cancer cells at the nanomolar range. Mechanistically, the D-box (destruction-box) region of Nek2 specifically binds to Hec1 at amino acids 408–422, immediately adjacent to the INH binding motif. Subsequent binding of Nek2 to INH-bound Hec1 triggered proteasome-mediated Nek2 degradation, whereas the Hec1 binding defective Nek2 mutant, Nek2 R361L, resisted INH-induced Nek2 degradation. This finding unveils a novel drug-action mechanism where the binding of INHs to Hec1 forms a virtual death-trap to trigger Nek2 degradation and eventually cell death. Furthermore, analysis of the gene expression profiles of breast cancer patient samples revealed that co-elevated expressions of Hec1 and Nek2 correlated with the shortest survival. Treatment of mice with this kind of tumor with INHs significantly suppressed tumor growth without obvious toxicity. Taken together, the new INH derivatives are suitable for translation into clinical application.
PMCID: PMC4175300  PMID: 24662830
Hec1; Nek2; protein-protein interaction inhibitors; protein degradation; mitotic catastrophe
7.  The EBI Search engine: providing search and retrieval functionality for biological data from EMBL-EBI 
Nucleic Acids Research  2015;43(Web Server issue):W585-W588.
The European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI— provides free and unrestricted access to data across all major areas of biology and biomedicine. Searching and extracting knowledge across these domains requires a fast and scalable solution that addresses the requirements of domain experts as well as casual users. We present the EBI Search engine, referred to here as ‘EBI Search’, an easy-to-use fast text search and indexing system with powerful data navigation and retrieval capabilities. API integration provides access to analytical tools, allowing users to further investigate the results of their search. The interconnectivity that exists between data resources at EMBL-EBI provides easy, quick and precise navigation and a better understanding of the relationship between different data types including sequences, genes, gene products, proteins, protein domains, protein families, enzymes and macromolecular structures, together with relevant life science literature.
PMCID: PMC4489232  PMID: 25855807
8.  The EMBL-EBI bioinformatics web and programmatic tools framework 
Nucleic Acids Research  2015;43(Web Server issue):W580-W584.
Since 2009 the EMBL-EBI Job Dispatcher framework has provided free access to a range of mainstream sequence analysis applications. These include sequence similarity search services ( such as BLAST, FASTA and PSI-Search, multiple sequence alignment tools ( such as Clustal Omega, MAFFT and T-Coffee, and other sequence analysis tools ( such as InterProScan. Through these services users can search mainstream sequence databases such as ENA, UniProt and Ensembl Genomes, utilising a uniform web interface or systematically through Web Services interfaces ( using common programming languages, and obtain enriched results with novel visualisations. Integration with EBI Search ( and the dbfetch retrieval service ( further expands the usefulness of the framework. New tools and updates such as NCBI BLAST+, InterProScan 5 and PfamScan, new categories such as RNA analysis tools (, new databases such as ENA non-coding, WormBase ParaSite, Pfam and Rfam, and new workflow methods, together with the retirement of depreciated services, ensure that the framework remains relevant to today's biological community.
PMCID: PMC4489272  PMID: 25845596
9.  The InterPro protein families database: the classification resource after 15 years 
Nucleic Acids Research  2014;43(Database issue):D213-D221.
The InterPro database ( is a freely available resource that can be used to classify sequences into protein families and to predict the presence of important domains and sites. Central to the InterPro database are predictive models, known as signatures, from a range of different protein family databases that have different biological focuses and use different methodological approaches to classify protein families and domains. InterPro integrates these signatures, capitalizing on the respective strengths of the individual databases, to produce a powerful protein classification resource. Here, we report on the status of InterPro as it enters its 15th year of operation, and give an overview of new developments with the database and its associated Web interfaces and software. In particular, the new domain architecture search tool is described and the process of mapping of Gene Ontology terms to InterPro is outlined. We also discuss the challenges faced by the resource given the explosive growth in sequence data in recent years. InterPro (version 48.0) contains 36 766 member database signatures integrated into 26 238 InterPro entries, an increase of over 3993 entries (5081 signatures), since 2012.
PMCID: PMC4383996  PMID: 25428371
10.  Content discovery and retrieval services at the European Nucleotide Archive 
Nucleic Acids Research  2014;43(Database issue):D23-D29.
The European Nucleotide Archive (ENA; is Europe's primary resource for nucleotide sequence information. With the growing volume and diversity of public sequencing data comes the need for increased sophistication in data organisation, presentation and search services so as to maximise its discoverability and usability. In response to this, ENA has been introducing and improving checklists for use during submission and expanding its search facilities to provide targeted search results. Here, we give a brief update on ENA content and some major developments undertaken in data submission services during 2014. We then describe in more detail the services we offer for data discovery and retrieval.
PMCID: PMC4383942  PMID: 25404130
11.  InterProScan 5: genome-scale protein function classification 
Bioinformatics  2014;30(9):1236-1240.
Motivation: Robust large-scale sequence analysis is a major challenge in modern genomic science, where biologists are frequently trying to characterize many millions of sequences. Here, we describe a new Java-based architecture for the widely used protein function prediction software package InterProScan. Developments include improvements and additions to the outputs of the software and the complete reimplementation of the software framework, resulting in a flexible and stable system that is able to use both multiprocessor machines and/or conventional clusters to achieve scalable distributed data analysis. InterProScan is freely available for download from the EMBl-EBI FTP site and the open source code is hosted at Google Code.
Availability and implementation: InterProScan is distributed via FTP at and the source code is available from
Contact: or or
PMCID: PMC3998142  PMID: 24451626
12.  Assembly information services in the European Nucleotide Archive 
Nucleic Acids Research  2013;42(Database issue):D38-D43.
The European Nucleotide Archive (ENA; is a repository for the world public domain nucleotide sequence data output. ENA content covers a spectrum of data types including raw reads, assembly data and functional annotation. ENA has faced a dramatic growth in genome assembly submission rates, data volumes and complexity of datasets. This has prompted a broad reworking of assembly submission services, for which we now reach the end of a major programme of work and many enhancements have already been made available over the year to components of the submission service. In this article, we briefly review ENA content and growth over 2013, describe our rapidly developing services for genome assembly information and outline further major developments over the last year.
PMCID: PMC3965037  PMID: 24214989
13.  Routine CSF Analysis in Coccidioidomycosis Is Not Required 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e64249.
Although routinely done, there has been no evaluation of the utility of performing routine cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) examination in patients with active coccidioidomycosis and high complement fixation (IgG) antibody titers or other risk factors for disseminated infection. In our review 100% of patients diagnosed with coccidioidal meningitis had at least one sign or symptom consistent with infection of the central nervous system, headache was present in 100% of those with meningitis, while no patients without signs/symptoms of CNS infection were found to have coccidioidal meningitis, irrespective of antibody titers or other risk factors. Thus routine lumbar puncture may be unnecessary for patients with coccidioidomycosis who lack suggestive clinical symptoms.
PMCID: PMC3661666  PMID: 23717579
14.  Analysis Tool Web Services from the EMBL-EBI 
Nucleic Acids Research  2013;41(Web Server issue):W597-W600.
Since 2004 the European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) has provided access to a wide range of databases and analysis tools via Web Services interfaces. This comprises services to search across the databases available from the EMBL-EBI and to explore the network of cross-references present in the data (e.g. EB-eye), services to retrieve entry data in various data formats and to access the data in specific fields (e.g. dbfetch), and analysis tool services, for example, sequence similarity search (e.g. FASTA and NCBI BLAST), multiple sequence alignment (e.g. Clustal Omega and MUSCLE), pairwise sequence alignment and protein functional analysis (e.g. InterProScan and Phobius). The REST/SOAP Web Services ( interfaces to these databases and tools allow their integration into other tools, applications, web sites, pipeline processes and analytical workflows. To get users started using the Web Services, sample clients are provided covering a range of programming languages and popular Web Service tool kits, and a brief guide to Web Services technologies, including a set of tutorials, is available for those wishing to learn more and develop their own clients. Users of the Web Services are informed of improvements and updates via a range of methods.
PMCID: PMC3692137  PMID: 23671338
15.  The Enzyme Portal: a case study in applying user-centred design methods in bioinformatics 
BMC Bioinformatics  2013;14:103.
User-centred design (UCD) is a type of user interface design in which the needs and desires of users are taken into account at each stage of the design process for a service or product; often for software applications and websites. Its goal is to facilitate the design of software that is both useful and easy to use. To achieve this, you must characterise users’ requirements, design suitable interactions to meet their needs, and test your designs using prototypes and real life scenarios.
For bioinformatics, there is little practical information available regarding how to carry out UCD in practice. To address this we describe a complete, multi-stage UCD process used for creating a new bioinformatics resource for integrating enzyme information, called the Enzyme Portal ( This freely-available service mines and displays data about proteins with enzymatic activity from public repositories via a single search, and includes biochemical reactions, biological pathways, small molecule chemistry, disease information, 3D protein structures and relevant scientific literature.
We employed several UCD techniques, including: persona development, interviews, ‘canvas sort’ card sorting, user workflows, usability testing and others. Our hope is that this case study will motivate the reader to apply similar UCD approaches to their own software design for bioinformatics. Indeed, we found the benefits included more effective decision-making for design ideas and technologies; enhanced team-working and communication; cost effectiveness; and ultimately a service that more closely meets the needs of our target audience.
PMCID: PMC3623738  PMID: 23514033
3D protein structure; Biological pathways; Card sorting; Design; Enzyme; Enzyme portal; Implementation; Personae; Prototyping; User-centered design (USA spelling); User-centred design; User experience; User profiles; User requirements; Usability testing
16.  EDAM: an ontology of bioinformatics operations, types of data and identifiers, topics and formats 
Bioinformatics  2013;29(10):1325-1332.
Motivation: Advancing the search, publication and integration of bioinformatics tools and resources demands consistent machine-understandable descriptions. A comprehensive ontology allowing such descriptions is therefore required.
Results: EDAM is an ontology of bioinformatics operations (tool or workflow functions), types of data and identifiers, application domains and data formats. EDAM supports semantic annotation of diverse entities such as Web services, databases, programmatic libraries, standalone tools, interactive applications, data schemas, datasets and publications within bioinformatics. EDAM applies to organizing and finding suitable tools and data and to automating their integration into complex applications or workflows. It includes over 2200 defined concepts and has successfully been used for annotations and implementations.
Availability: The latest stable version of EDAM is available in OWL format from and in OBO format from It can be viewed online at the NCBO BioPortal and the EBI Ontology Lookup Service. For documentation and license please refer to This article describes version 1.2 available at
PMCID: PMC3654706  PMID: 23479348
17.  The Annotation-enriched non-redundant patent sequence databases 
The EMBL-European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) offers public access to patent sequence data, providing a valuable service to the intellectual property and scientific communities. The non-redundant (NR) patent sequence databases comprise two-level nucleotide and protein sequence clusters (NRNL1, NRNL2, NRPL1 and NRPL2) based on sequence identity (level-1) and patent family (level-2). Annotation from the source entries in these databases is merged and enhanced with additional information from the patent literature and biological context. Corrections in patent publication numbers, kind-codes and patent equivalents significantly improve the data quality. Data are available through various user interfaces including web browser, downloads via FTP, SRS, Dbfetch and EBI-Search. Sequence similarity/homology searches against the databases are available using BLAST, FASTA and PSI-Search. In this article, we describe the data collection and annotation and also outline major changes and improvements introduced since 2009. Apart from data growth, these changes include additional annotation for singleton clusters, the identifier versioning for tracking entry change and the entry mappings between the two-level databases.
Database URL:
PMCID: PMC3568390  PMID: 23396323
18.  Facing growth in the European Nucleotide Archive 
Nucleic Acids Research  2012;41(Database issue):D30-D35.
The European Nucleotide Archive (ENA; collects, maintains and presents comprehensive nucleic acid sequence and related information as part of the permanent public scientific record. Here, we provide brief updates on ENA content developments and major service enhancements in 2012 and describe in more detail two important areas of development and policy that are driven by ongoing growth in sequencing technologies. First, we describe the ENA data warehouse, a resource for which we provide a programmatic entry point to integrated content across the breadth of ENA. Second, we detail our plans for the deployment of CRAM data compression technology in ENA.
PMCID: PMC3531187  PMID: 23203883
19.  IPD—the Immuno Polymorphism Database 
Nucleic Acids Research  2012;41(Database issue):D1234-D1240.
The Immuno Polymorphism Database (IPD), is a set of specialist databases related to the study of polymorphic genes in the immune system. The IPD project works with specialist groups or nomenclature committees who provide and curate individual sections before they are submitted to IPD for online publication. The IPD project stores all the data in a set of related databases. IPD currently consists of four databases: IPD-KIR, contains the allelic sequences of killer-cell immunoglobulin-like receptors, IPD-MHC, a database of sequences of the major histocompatibility complex of different species; IPD-HPA, alloantigens expressed only on platelets; and IPD-ESTDAB, which provides access to the European Searchable Tumour Cell-Line Database, a cell bank of immunologically characterized melanoma cell lines. The data is currently available online from the website and FTP directory. This article describes the latest updates and additional tools added to the IPD project.
PMCID: PMC3531162  PMID: 23180793
20.  The IMGT/HLA database 
Nucleic Acids Research  2012;41(Database issue):D1222-D1227.
It is 14 years since the IMGT/HLA database was first released, providing the HLA community with a searchable repository of highly curated HLA sequences. The HLA complex is located within the 6p21.3 region of human chromosome 6 and contains more than 220 genes of diverse function. Of these, 21 genes encode proteins of the immune system that are highly polymorphic. The naming of these HLA genes and alleles and their quality control is the responsibility of the World Health Organization Nomenclature Committee for Factors of the HLA System. Through the work of the HLA Informatics Group and in collaboration with the European Bioinformatics Institute, we are able to provide public access to these data through the website Regular updates to the website ensure that new and confirmatory sequences are dispersed to the HLA community and the wider research and clinical communities. This article describes the latest updates and additional tools added to the IMGT/HLA project.
PMCID: PMC3531221  PMID: 23080122
22.  PSI-Search: iterative HOE-reduced profile SSEARCH searching 
Bioinformatics  2012;28(12):1650-1651.
Summary: Iterative similarity searches with PSI-BLAST position-specific score matrices (PSSMs) find many more homologs than single searches, but PSSMs can be contaminated when homologous alignments are extended into unrelated protein domains—homologous over-extension (HOE). PSI-Search combines an optimal Smith–Waterman local alignment sequence search, using SSEARCH, with the PSI-BLAST profile construction strategy. An optional sequence boundary-masking procedure, which prevents alignments from being extended after they are initially included, can reduce HOE errors in the PSSM profile. Preventing HOE improves selectivity for both PSI-BLAST and PSI-Search, but PSI-Search has ~4-fold better selectivity than PSI-BLAST and similar sensitivity at 50% and 60% family coverage. PSI-Search is also produces 2- for 4-fold fewer false-positives than JackHMMER, but is ~5% less sensitive.
Availability and implementation: PSI-Search is available from the authors as a standalone implementation written in Perl for Linux-compatible platforms. It is also available through a web interface ( and SOAP and REST Web Services (
PMCID: PMC3371869  PMID: 22539666
23.  Bioinformatics Training Network (BTN): a community resource for bioinformatics trainers 
Briefings in Bioinformatics  2011;13(3):383-389.
Funding bodies are increasingly recognizing the need to provide graduates and researchers with access to short intensive courses in a variety of disciplines, in order both to improve the general skills base and to provide solid foundations on which researchers may build their careers. In response to the development of ‘high-throughput biology’, the need for training in the field of bioinformatics, in particular, is seeing a resurgence: it has been defined as a key priority by many Institutions and research programmes and is now an important component of many grant proposals. Nevertheless, when it comes to planning and preparing to meet such training needs, tension arises between the reward structures that predominate in the scientific community which compel individuals to publish or perish, and the time that must be devoted to the design, delivery and maintenance of high-quality training materials. Conversely, there is much relevant teaching material and training expertise available worldwide that, were it properly organized, could be exploited by anyone who needs to provide training or needs to set up a new course. To do this, however, the materials would have to be centralized in a database and clearly tagged in relation to target audiences, learning objectives, etc. Ideally, they would also be peer reviewed, and easily and efficiently accessible for downloading. Here, we present the Bioinformatics Training Network (BTN), a new enterprise that has been initiated to address these needs and review it, respectively, to similar initiatives and collections.
PMCID: PMC3357490  PMID: 22110242
Bioinformatics; training; end users; bioinformatics courses; learning bioinformatics
24.  InterPro in 2011: new developments in the family and domain prediction database 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;40(Database issue):D306-D312.
InterPro ( is a database that integrates diverse information about protein families, domains and functional sites, and makes it freely available to the public via Web-based interfaces and services. Central to the database are diagnostic models, known as signatures, against which protein sequences can be searched to determine their potential function. InterPro has utility in the large-scale analysis of whole genomes and meta-genomes, as well as in characterizing individual protein sequences. Herein we give an overview of new developments in the database and its associated software since 2009, including updates to database content, curation processes and Web and programmatic interfaces.
PMCID: PMC3245097  PMID: 22096229
25.  Fast, scalable generation of high-quality protein multiple sequence alignments using Clustal Omega 
Fast, scalable generation of high-quality protein multiple sequence alignments using Clustal Omega
Multiple sequence alignments are fundamental to many sequence analysis methods. The new program Clustal Omega can align virtually any number of protein sequences quickly and has powerful features for adding sequences to existing precomputed alignments.
Multiple sequence alignments are fundamental to many sequence analysis methods. Most alignments are computed using the progressive alignment heuristic. These methods are starting to become a bottleneck in some analysis pipelines when faced with data sets of the size of many thousands of sequences. Some methods allow computation of larger data sets while sacrificing quality, and others produce high-quality alignments, but scale badly with the number of sequences. In this paper, we describe a new program called Clustal Omega, which can align virtually any number of protein sequences quickly and that delivers accurate alignments. The accuracy of the package on smaller test cases is similar to that of the high-quality aligners. On larger data sets, Clustal Omega outperforms other packages in terms of execution time and quality. Clustal Omega also has powerful features for adding sequences to and exploiting information in existing alignments, making use of the vast amount of precomputed information in public databases like Pfam.
PMCID: PMC3261699  PMID: 21988835
bioinformatics; hidden Markov models; multiple sequence alignment

Results 1-25 (59)