Rapid technological advances have led to an explosion of biomedical data in recent years. The pace of change has inspired new collaborative approaches for sharing materials and resources to help train life scientists both in the use of cutting-edge bioinformatics tools and databases and in how to analyse and interpret large datasets. A prototype platform for sharing such training resources was recently created by the Bioinformatics Training Network (BTN). Building on this work, we have created a centralized portal for sharing training materials and courses, including a catalogue of trainers and course organizers, and an announcement service for training events. For course organizers, the portal provides opportunities to promote their training events; for trainers, the portal offers an environment for sharing materials, for gaining visibility for their work and promoting their skills; for trainees, it offers a convenient one-stop shop for finding suitable training resources and identifying relevant training events and activities locally and worldwide. Availability and implementation: http://mygoblet.org/training-portal CONTACT: email@example.com.
The eukaryotic linear motif (ELM http://elm.eu.org) resource is a hub for collecting, classifying and curating information about short linear motifs (SLiMs). For >10 years, this resource has provided the scientific community with a freely accessible guide to the biology and function of linear motifs. The current version of ELM contains ?200 different motif classes with over 2400 experimentally validated instances manually curated from >2000 scientific publications. Furthermore, detailed information about motif-mediated interactions has been annotated and made available in standard exchange formats. Where appropriate, links are provided to resources such as switches.elm.eu.org and KEGG pathways.
The mountains of data thrusting from the new landscape of modern high-throughput biology are irrevocably changing biomedical research and creating a near-insatiable demand for training in data management and manipulation and data mining and analysis. Among life scientists, from clinicians to environmental researchers, a common theme is the need not just to use, and gain familiarity with, bioinformatics tools and resources but also to understand their underlying fundamental theoretical and practical concepts. Providing bioinformatics training to empower life scientists to handle and analyse their data efficiently, and progress their research, is a challenge across the globe. Delivering good training goes beyond traditional lectures and resource-centric demos, using interactivity, problem-solving exercises and cooperative learning to substantially enhance training quality and learning outcomes. In this context, this article discusses various pragmatic criteria for identifying training needs and learning objectives, for selecting suitable trainees and trainers, for developing and maintaining training skills and evaluating training quality. Adherence to these criteria may help not only to guide course organizers and trainers on the path towards bioinformatics training excellence but, importantly, also to improve the training experience for life scientists.
We present iAnn, an open source community-driven platform for dissemination of life science events, such as courses, conferences and workshops. iAnn allows automatic visualisation and integration of customised event reports. A central repository lies at the core of the platform: curators add submitted events, and these are subsequently accessed via web services. Thus, once an iAnn widget is incorporated into a website, it permanently shows timely relevant information as if it were native to the remote site. At the same time, announcements submitted to the repository are automatically disseminated to all portals that query the system. To facilitate the visualization of announcements, iAnn provides powerful filtering options and views, integrated in Google Maps and Google Calendar. All iAnn widgets are freely available.
The third Heidelberg Unseminars in Bioinformatics (HUB) was held on 18th October 2012, at Heidelberg University, Germany. HUB brought together around 40 bioinformaticians from academia and industry to discuss the Biggest Challenges in Bioinformatics in a World Café style event.
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.
Linear motifs are short, evolutionarily plastic components of regulatory proteins and provide low-affinity interaction interfaces. These compact modules play central roles in mediating every aspect of the regulatory functionality of the cell. They are particularly prominent in mediating cell signaling, controlling protein turnover and directing protein localization. Given their importance, our understanding of motifs is surprisingly limited, largely as a result of the difficulty of discovery, both experimentally and computationally. The Eukaryotic Linear Motif (ELM) resource at http://elm.eu.org provides the biological community with a comprehensive database of known experimentally validated motifs, and an exploratory tool to discover putative linear motifs in user-submitted protein sequences. The current update of the ELM database comprises 1800 annotated motif instances representing 170 distinct functional classes, including approximately 500 novel instances and 24 novel classes. Several older motif class entries have been also revisited, improving annotation and adding novel instances. Furthermore, addition of full-text search capabilities, an enhanced interface and simplified batch download has improved the overall accessibility of the ELM data. The motif discovery portion of the ELM resource has added conservation, and structural attributes have been incorporated to aid users to discriminate biologically relevant motifs from stochastically occurring non-functional instances.
Traditionally, protein-protein interactions were thought to be mediated by large, structured domains. However, it has become clear that the interactome comprises a wide range of binding interfaces with varying degrees of flexibility, ranging from rigid globular domains to disordered regions that natively lack structure. Enrichment for disorder in highly connected hub proteins and its correlation with organism complexity hint at the functional importance of disordered regions. Nevertheless, they have not yet been extensively characterised. Shifting the attention from globular domains to disordered regions of the proteome might bring us closer to elucidating the dense and complex connectivity of the interactome. An important class of disordered interfaces are the compact mono-partite, short linear motifs (SLiMs, or eukaryotic linear motifs (ELMs)). They are evolutionarily plastic and interact with relatively low affinity due to the limited number of residues that make direct contact with the binding partner. These features confer to SLiMs the ability to evolve convergently and mediate transient interactions, which is imperative to network evolution and to maintain robust cell signalling, respectively. The ability to discriminate biologically relevant SLiMs by means of different attributes will improve our understanding of the complexity of the interactome and aid development of bioinformatics tools for motif discovery. In this paper, the curated instances currently available in the Eukaryotic Linear Motif (ELM) database are analysed to provide a clear overview of the defining attributes of SLiMs. These analyses suggest that functional SLiMs have higher levels of conservation than their surrounding residues, frequently evolve convergently, preferentially occur in disordered regions and often form a secondary structure when bound to their interaction partner. These results advocate searching for small groupings of residues in disordered regions with higher relative conservation and a propensity to form the secondary structure. Finally, the most interesting conclusions are examined in regard to their functional consequences.
The 17-subunit human RNA polymerase III (hPol III) transcribes small, untranslated RNA genes that are involved in the regulation of transcription, splicing and translation. hPol III subunits hRPC62, hRPC39 and hRPC32 form a stable ternary subcomplex required for promoter-specific transcription initiation by hPol III. Here, we report the crystal structure of hRPC62. This subunit folds as a four-tandem extended winged helix (eWH) protein that is structurally related to the transcription factor TFIIE? N terminus. Through biochemical analyses, we mapped the protein-protein interactions of hRPC62, hRPC32 and hRPC39. In addition, we demonstrated that hRPC62 and hRPC39 bind single-stranded and duplex DNA, respectively, in a sequence-independent manner. Overall, we shed light on structural similarities between the hPol III-specific subunit hRPC62 and TFIIE? and propose specific functions for hRPC39 and hRPC62 in transcription initiation by hPol III.
Melanization is an innate immune response in arthropods that encapsulates and kills invading pathogens. One of its rate-limiting steps is the activation of prophenoloxidase (PPO), which is controlled by an extracellular proteinase cascade and serpin inhibitors. The molecular composition of this system is largely unknown in mosquitoes with the exception of serpin-2 (SRPN2), which was previously identified as a key negative regulator of melanization. Using reverse genetic and biochemical techniques, we identified the Anopheles gambiae clip-serine proteinase CLIPB9 as a PPO-activating proteinase, which is inhibited by SRPN2. Double knockdown of SRPN2 and CLIPB9 reversed the pleiotrophic phenotype induced by SRPN2 silencing. This study identifies the first inhibitory serpin-serine proteinase pair in mosquitoes and defines a regulatory unit of melanization. Additionally, the interaction of CLIPB9 and SRPN2 affects the life span of adult female mosquitoes and therefore constitutes a well-defined potential molecular target for novel late-life acting insecticides.
As bioinformatics becomes increasingly central to research in the molecular life sciences, the need to train non-bioinformaticians to make the most of bioinformatics resources is growing. Here, we review the key challenges and pitfalls to providing effective training for users of bioinformatics services, and discuss successful training strategies shared by a diverse set of bioinformatics trainers. We also identify steps that trainers in bioinformatics could take together to advance the state of the art in current training practices. The ideas presented in this article derive from the first Trainer Networking Session held under the auspices of the EU-funded SLING Integrating Activity, which took place in November 2009.
There is a clear need to develop novel tools to help improve our understanding of stem cell biology, and potentially also the utility of stem cells in regenerative medicine. We report the cloning, functional, and bioinformatic characterization of a novel stem cell marker in the zebrafish retina, drCol 15a1b. The expression pattern of drCol 15a1b is restricted to stem cell niches located in the central nervous system, whereas other collagen XVs are associated with muscle and endothelial tissues. Knocking down drCol 15a1b expression causes smaller eyes, ear defects, and brain edema. Microscopic analysis reveals enhanced proliferation in the morphant eye, with many mitotic nuclei located in the central retina, together with a delayed differentiation of the mature retinal cell types. Besides, several markers known to be expressed in the ciliary marginal zone display broader expression areas in morpholino-injected embryos, suggesting an anomalous diffusion of signaling effectors from the sonic hedgehog and notch pathways. These results indicate that drCol 15a1b is a novel stem cell marker in the central nervous system that has a key role in homing stem cells into specialized niches in the adult organism. Moreover, mutations in the hCol 18a1 gene are responsible for the Knobloch syndrome, which affects brain and retinal structures, suggesting that drCol 15a1b may function similarly to mammalian Col 18a1. Thus, our results shed new light on the signaling pathways that underlie the maintenance of stem cells in the adult organism while helping us to understand the role of extracellular matrix proteins in modulating the signals that determine stem cell differentiation, cell cycle exit and apoptosis.
Ionotropic glutamate receptors (iGluRs) are a highly conserved family of ligand-gated ion channels present in animals, plants, and bacteria, which are best characterized for their roles in synaptic communication in vertebrate nervous systems. A variant subfamily of iGluRs, the Ionotropic Receptors (IRs), was recently identified as a new class of olfactory receptors in the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, hinting at a broader function of this ion channel family in detection of environmental, as well as intercellular, chemical signals. Here, we investigate the origin and evolution of IRs by comprehensive evolutionary genomics and in situ expression analysis. In marked contrast to the insect-specific Odorant Receptor family, we show that IRs are expressed in olfactory organs across Protostomia--a major branch of the animal kingdom that encompasses arthropods, nematodes, and molluscs--indicating that they represent an ancestral protostome chemosensory receptor family. Two subfamilies of IRs are distinguished: conserved "antennal IRs," which likely define the first olfactory receptor family of insects, and species-specific "divergent IRs," which are expressed in peripheral and internal gustatory neurons, implicating this family in taste and food assessment. Comparative analysis of drosophilid IRs reveals the selective forces that have shaped the repertoires in flies with distinct chemosensory preferences. Examination of IR gene structure and genomic distribution suggests both non-allelic homologous recombination and retroposition contributed to the expansion of this multigene family. Together, these findings lay a foundation for functional analysis of these receptors in both neurobiological and evolutionary studies. Furthermore, this work identifies novel targets for manipulating chemosensory-driven behaviours of agricultural pests and disease vectors.
The development of the endomembrane system was a major step in eukaryotic evolution. Membrane coats, which exhibit a unique arrangement of beta-propeller and alpha-helical repeat domains, play key roles in shaping eukaryotic membranes. Such proteins are likely to have been present in the ancestral eukaryote but cannot be detected in prokaryotes using sequence-only searches. We have used a structure-based detection protocol to search all proteomes for proteins with this domain architecture. Apart from the eukaryotes, we identified this protein architecture only in the Planctomycetes-Verrucomicrobia-Chlamydiae (PVC) bacterial superphylum, many members of which share a compartmentalized cell plan. We determined that one such protein is partly localized at the membranes of vesicles formed inside the cells in the planctomycete Gemmata obscuriglobus. Our results demonstrate similarities between bacterial and eukaryotic compartmentalization machinery, suggesting that the bacterial PVC superphylum contributed significantly to eukaryogenesis.
Linear motifs are short segments of multidomain proteins that provide regulatory functions independently of protein tertiary structure. Much of intracellular signalling passes through protein modifications at linear motifs. Many thousands of linear motif instances, most notably phosphorylation sites, have now been reported. Although clearly very abundant, linear motifs are difficult to predict de novo in protein sequences due to the difficulty of obtaining robust statistical assessments. The ELM resource at http://elm.eu.org/ provides an expanding knowledge base, currently covering 146 known motifs, with annotation that includes >1300 experimentally reported instances. ELM is also an exploratory tool for suggesting new candidates of known linear motifs in proteins of interest. Information about protein domains, protein structure and native disorder, cellular and taxonomic contexts is used to reduce or deprecate false positive matches. Results are graphically displayed in a Bar Code format, which also displays known instances from homologous proteins through a novel Instance Mapper protocol based on PHI-BLAST. ELM server output provides links to the ELM annotation as well as to a number of remote resources. Using the links, researchers can explore the motifs, proteins, complex structures and associated literature to evaluate whether candidate motifs might be worth experimental investigation.
Nascent mRNAs produced by transcription in the nucleus are subsequently processed and packaged into mRNA ribonucleoprotein particles (messenger ribonucleoproteins (mRNPs)) before export to the cytoplasm. Here, we have used the poly(A)-binding protein Nab2 to isolate mRNPs from yeast under conditions that preserve mRNA integrity. Upon Nab2-tandem affinity purification, several mRNA export factors were co-enriched (Yra1, Mex67, THO-TREX) that were present in mRNPs of different size and mRNA length. High-throughput sequencing of the co-precipitated RNAs indicated that Nab2 is associated with the bulk of yeast transcripts with no specificity for different mRNA classes. Electron microscopy revealed that many of the mRNPs have a characteristic elongated structure. Our data suggest that mRNPs, although associated with different mRNAs, have a unifying core structure.
Genomes can be organised in different ways. Understanding the extent of the diversity of genome organisation, the processes that create it, and its consequences is particularly important for two key reasons. Firstly, it is relevant for our understanding of the genetic basis for the astounding diversity of life on Earth. Elucidating the mechanisms and processes underlying such diversity has been, and remains, one of the central goals of biological research. Secondly, it helps prepare us for our analysis of new genomes. For example, knowing that plasmids can be circular or linear, we know to check for circularity or linearity in a plasmid we encounter for the first time (if this is relevant for our analysis). This article provides an overview of variation and diversity in several aspects of genome organisation and architecture, including the number, size, ploidy, composition (RNA or DNA), packaging, and topology of the molecules encoding the genome. Additionally, it reviews differences in selected genomic features, i.e. telomeres, centromeres, DNA replication origins, and sex chromosomes. To put this in context, it incorporates a brief survey of organism diversity and the tree of life, and ends with a discussion of mutation mechanisms and inheritance, and explanations of key terms used to describe genomic variation.
Genomic analyses increasingly make use of sophisticated statistical and computational approaches in investigations of genomic function and evolution. Scientists implementing and developing these approaches are often computational scientists, physicists, or mathematicians. This article aims to provide a compact overview of genome biology for these scientists. Thus, the article focuses on providing biological context to the genomic features, processes, and structures analysed by these approaches. Topics covered include (1) differences between eukaryotic and prokaryotic cells; (2) the physical structure of genomes and chromatin; (3) different categories of genomic regions, including those serving as templates for RNA and protein synthesis, regulatory regions, repetitive regions, and "architectural" or "organisational" regions, such as centromeres and telomeres; (4) the cell cycle; (5) an overview of transcription, translation, and protein structure; and (6) a glossary of relevant terms.
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