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1.  A toolbox for developing bioinformatics software 
Briefings in Bioinformatics  2011;13(2):244-257.
Creating useful software is a major activity of many scientists, including bioinformaticians. Nevertheless, software development in an academic setting is often unsystematic, which can lead to problems associated with maintenance and long-term availibility. Unfortunately, well-documented software development methodology is difficult to adopt, and technical measures that directly improve bioinformatic programming have not been described comprehensively. We have examined 22 software projects and have identified a set of practices for software development in an academic environment. We found them useful to plan a project, support the involvement of experts (e.g. experimentalists), and to promote higher quality and maintainability of the resulting programs. This article describes 12 techniques that facilitate a quick start into software engineering. We describe 3 of the 22 projects in detail and give many examples to illustrate the usage of particular techniques. We expect this toolbox to be useful for many bioinformatics programming projects and to the training of scientific programmers.
PMCID: PMC3294241  PMID: 21803787
software development; programming; project management; software quality
2.  Databases and Bioinformatics Tools for the Study of DNA Repair 
DNA is continuously exposed to many different damaging agents such as environmental chemicals, UV light, ionizing radiation, and reactive cellular metabolites. DNA lesions can result in different phenotypical consequences ranging from a number of diseases, including cancer, to cellular malfunction, cell death, or aging. To counteract the deleterious effects of DNA damage, cells have developed various repair systems, including biochemical pathways responsible for the removal of single-strand lesions such as base excision repair (BER) and nucleotide excision repair (NER) or specialized polymerases temporarily taking over lesion-arrested DNA polymerases during the S phase in translesion synthesis (TLS). There are also other mechanisms of DNA repair such as homologous recombination repair (HRR), nonhomologous end-joining repair (NHEJ), or DNA damage response system (DDR). This paper reviews bioinformatics resources specialized in disseminating information about DNA repair pathways, proteins involved in repair mechanisms, damaging agents, and DNA lesions.
PMCID: PMC3200286  PMID: 22091405
3.  MODOMICS: a database of RNA modification pathways. 2008 update 
Nucleic Acids Research  2008;37(Database issue):D118-D121.
MODOMICS, a database devoted to the systems biology of RNA modification, has been subjected to substantial improvements. It provides comprehensive information on the chemical structure of modified nucleosides, pathways of their biosynthesis, sequences of RNAs containing these modifications and RNA-modifying enzymes. MODOMICS also provides cross-references to other databases and to literature. In addition to the previously available manually curated tRNA sequences from a few model organisms, we have now included additional tRNAs and rRNAs, and all RNAs with 3D structures in the Nucleic Acid Database, in which modified nucleosides are present. In total, 3460 modified bases in RNA sequences of different organisms have been annotated. New RNA-modifying enzymes have been also added. The current collection of enzymes includes mainly proteins for the model organisms Escherichia coli and Saccharomyces cerevisiae, and is currently being expanded to include proteins from other organisms, in particular Archaea and Homo sapiens. For enzymes with known structures, links are provided to the corresponding Protein Data Bank entries, while for many others homology models have been created. Many new options for database searching and querying have been included. MODOMICS can be accessed at
PMCID: PMC2686465  PMID: 18854352
4.  MetalionRNA: computational predictor of metal-binding sites in RNA structures 
Bioinformatics  2011;28(2):198-205.
Motivation: Metal ions are essential for the folding of RNA molecules into stable tertiary structures and are often involved in the catalytic activity of ribozymes. However, the positions of metal ions in RNA 3D structures are difficult to determine experimentally. This motivated us to develop a computational predictor of metal ion sites for RNA structures.
Results: We developed a statistical potential for predicting positions of metal ions (magnesium, sodium and potassium), based on the analysis of binding sites in experimentally solved RNA structures. The MetalionRNA program is available as a web server that predicts metal ions for RNA structures submitted by the user.
Availability: The MetalionRNA web server is accessible at
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
PMCID: PMC3259437  PMID: 22110243
5.  ModeRNA: a tool for comparative modeling of RNA 3D structure 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;39(10):4007-4022.
RNA is a large group of functionally important biomacromolecules. In striking analogy to proteins, the function of RNA depends on its structure and dynamics, which in turn is encoded in the linear sequence. However, while there are numerous methods for computational prediction of protein three-dimensional (3D) structure from sequence, with comparative modeling being the most reliable approach, there are very few such methods for RNA. Here, we present ModeRNA, a software tool for comparative modeling of RNA 3D structures. As an input, ModeRNA requires a 3D structure of a template RNA molecule, and a sequence alignment between the target to be modeled and the template. It must be emphasized that a good alignment is required for successful modeling, and for large and complex RNA molecules the development of a good alignment usually requires manual adjustments of the input data based on previous expertise of the respective RNA family. ModeRNA can model post-transcriptional modifications, a functionally important feature analogous to post-translational modifications in proteins. ModeRNA can also model DNA structures or use them as templates. It is equipped with many functions for merging fragments of different nucleic acid structures into a single model and analyzing their geometry. Windows and UNIX implementations of ModeRNA with comprehensive documentation and a tutorial are freely available.
PMCID: PMC3105415  PMID: 21300639
6.  RNA and protein 3D structure modeling: similarities and differences 
Journal of Molecular Modeling  2011;17(9):2325-2336.
In analogy to proteins, the function of RNA depends on its structure and dynamics, which are encoded in the linear sequence. While there are numerous methods for computational prediction of protein 3D structure from sequence, there have been very few such methods for RNA. This review discusses template-based and template-free approaches for macromolecular structure prediction, with special emphasis on comparison between the already tried-and-tested methods for protein structure modeling and the very recently developed “protein-like” modeling methods for RNA. We highlight analogies between many successful methods for modeling of these two types of biological macromolecules and argue that RNA 3D structure can be modeled using “protein-like” methodology. We also highlight the areas where the differences between RNA and proteins require the development of RNA-specific solutions.
FigureApproaches for predicting RNA structure. Top: Template-free modeling. Bottom: Template-based modeling
PMCID: PMC3168752  PMID: 21258831
Assessment; Prediction; RNA; Structure; Tertiary
7.  REPAIRtoire—a database of DNA repair pathways 
Nucleic Acids Research  2010;39(Database issue):D788-D792.
REPAIRtoire is the first comprehensive database resource for systems biology of DNA damage and repair. The database collects and organizes the following types of information: (i) DNA damage linked to environmental mutagenic and cytotoxic agents, (ii) pathways comprising individual processes and enzymatic reactions involved in the removal of damage, (iii) proteins participating in DNA repair and (iv) diseases correlated with mutations in genes encoding DNA repair proteins. REPAIRtoire provides also links to publications and external databases. REPAIRtoire contains information about eight main DNA damage checkpoint, repair and tolerance pathways: DNA damage signaling, direct reversal repair, base excision repair, nucleotide excision repair, mismatch repair, homologous recombination repair, nonhomologous end-joining and translesion synthesis. The pathway/protein dataset is currently limited to three model organisms: Escherichia coli, Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Homo sapiens. The DNA repair and tolerance pathways are represented as graphs and in tabular form with descriptions of each repair step and corresponding proteins, and individual entries are cross-referenced to supporting literature and primary databases. REPAIRtoire can be queried by the name of pathway, protein, enzymatic complex, damage and disease. In addition, a tool for drawing custom DNA–protein complexes is available online. REPAIRtoire is freely available and can be accessed at
PMCID: PMC3013684  PMID: 21051355

Results 1-7 (7)