Gene homology resources on the World Wide Web
ABSTRACT As the amount of information available to biologists increases exponentially, data analysis becomes progressively more challenging. Sequence homology has been a traditional tool in the researchers' armamentarium; it is a very versatile instrument and can be employed to assist in numerous tasks, from establishing the function of a gene to determination of the evolutionary development of an organism. Consequently, numerous specialized tools have been established in the public domain (most commonly, the World Wide Web) to help investigators use sequence homology in their research. These homology databases differ both in techniques they use to compare sequences as well as in the size of the unit of analysis, which can be the whole gene, a domain, or a motif. In this paper, we aim to present a systematic review of the inner details of the most commonly used databases as well as to offer guidelines for their use.
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ABSTRACT: Microbes must sense environmental stresses, transduce these signals and mount protective responses to survive in hostile environments. In this study we have tested the hypothesis that fungal stress signalling pathways have evolved rapidly in a niche-specific fashion that is independent of phylogeny. To test this hypothesis we have compared the conservation of stress signalling molecules in diverse fungal species with their stress resistance. These fungi, which include ascomycetes, basidiomycetes and microsporidia, occupy highly divergent niches from saline environments to plant or mammalian hosts. The fungi displayed significant variation in their resistance to osmotic (NaCl and sorbitol), oxidative (H2O2 and menadione) and cell wall stresses (Calcofluor White and Congo Red). There was no strict correlation between fungal phylogeny and stress resistance. Rather, the human pathogens tended to be more resistant to all three types of stress, an exception being the sensitivity of Candida albicans to the cell wall stress, Calcofluor White. In contrast, the plant pathogens were relatively sensitive to oxidative stress. The degree of conservation of osmotic, oxidative and cell wall stress signalling pathways amongst the eighteen fungal species was examined. Putative orthologues of functionally defined signalling components in Saccharomyces cerevisiae were identified by performing reciprocal BLASTP searches, and the percent amino acid identities of these orthologues recorded. This revealed that in general, central components of the osmotic, oxidative and cell wall stress signalling pathways are relatively well conserved, whereas the sensors lying upstream and transcriptional regulators lying downstream of these modules have diverged significantly. There was no obvious correlation between the degree of conservation of stress signalling pathways and the resistance of a particular fungus to the corresponding stress. Our data are consistent with the hypothesis that fungal stress signalling components have undergone rapid recent evolution to tune the stress responses in a niche-specific fashion.BMC Evolutionary Biology 03/2009; 9:44. DOI:10.1186/1471-2148-9-44 · 3.41 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: The development of high-throughput laboratory techniques created a demand for computer-assisted result analysis tools. Many of these techniques return lists of genes whose interpretation requires finding relevant biological roles for the problem at hand. The required information is typically available in public databases, and usually, this information must be manually retrieved to complement the analysis. This process is a very time-consuming task that should be automated as much as possible. GeneBrowser is a web-based tool that, for a given list of genes, combines data from several public databases with visualisation and analysis methods to help identify the most relevant and common biological characteristics. The functionalities provided include the following: a central point with the most relevant biological information for each inserted gene; a list of the most related papers in PubMed and gene expression studies in ArrayExpress; and an extended approach to functional analysis applied to Gene Ontology, homologies, gene chromosomal localisation and pathways. GeneBrowser provides a unique entry point to several visualisation and analysis methods, providing fast and easy analysis of a set of genes. GeneBrowser fills the gap between Web portals that analyse one gene at a time and functional analysis tools that are limited in scope and usually desktop-based.BMC Bioinformatics 07/2010; 11:389. DOI:10.1186/1471-2105-11-389 · 2.67 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Any living organism interacts with and responds specifically to environmental molecules by expressing specific olfactory receptors. In this paper, this specificity will be first examined in causal terms with particular emphasis on the mechanisms controlling olfactory gene expression, cell-to-cell interactions and odor-decoding processes. However, this type of explanation does not entirely justify the role olfactory receptors have played during evolution, since they are also expressed ectopically in different organs and/or tissues. Homologous olfactory genes have in fact been found in such diverse cells and/or organs as spermatozoa, testis and kidney where they are assumed to act as chemotactic sensors or renin modulators. To justify their functional diversity, homologous olfactory receptors are assumed to share the same basic role: that of conferring a self-identity to cells or tissues under varying environmental conditions. By adopting this standpoint, the functional attribution as olfactory or chemotactic sensors to these receptors should not be seen either as a cause conditioning receptor gene expression, or as a final effect resulting from genetically predetermined programs, but as a direct consequence of the environmental conditions olfactory receptor genes have explored during evolution. The association of odorant patterns with specific environmental or contextual situations makes their relationship semiotically triadic, due to the emergence of an interpretant capable of perceiving odorants as meaningful signs out of a noisy background. This perspective highlights the importance of odorant-receptor relationships as respect to the properties of the interacting partners. It is our contention that only when taken together can these different explanatory strategies provide a realistic account of how olfactory receptor genes have been structurally and functionally modified during evolution.Biosemiotics 12/2011; 4(3). DOI:10.1007/s12304-011-9113-5 · 0.49 Impact Factor