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Oellrich A.,Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute | Walls R.L.,University of Arizona | Cannon E.K.S.,Iowa State University | Cannon S.B.,Iowa State University | And 16 more authors.
Plant Methods | Year: 2015

Background: Plant phenotype datasets include many different types of data, formats, and terms from specialized vocabularies. Because these datasets were designed for different audiences, they frequently contain language and details tailored to investigators with different research objectives and backgrounds. Although phenotype comparisons across datasets have long been possible on a small scale, comprehensive queries and analyses that span a broad set of reference species, research disciplines, and knowledge domains continue to be severely limited by the absence of a common semantic framework. Results: We developed a workflow to curate and standardize existing phenotype datasets for six plant species, encompassing both model species and crop plants with established genetic resources. Our effort focused on mutant phenotypes associated with genes of known sequence in Arabidopsis thaliana (L.) Heynh. (Arabidopsis), Zea mays L. subsp. mays (maize), Medicago truncatula Gaertn. (barrel medic or Medicago), Oryza sativa L. (rice), Glycine max (L.) Merr. (soybean), and Solanum lycopersicum L. (tomato). We applied the same ontologies, annotation standards, formats, and best practices across all six species, thereby ensuring that the shared dataset could be used for cross-species querying and semantic similarity analyses. Curated phenotypes were first converted into a common format using taxonomically broad ontologies such as the Plant Ontology, Gene Ontology, and Phenotype and Trait Ontology. We then compared ontology-based phenotypic descriptions with an existing classification system for plant phenotypes and evaluated our semantic similarity dataset for its ability to enhance predictions of gene families, protein functions, and shared metabolic pathways that underlie informative plant phenotypes. Conclusions: The use of ontologies, annotation standards, shared formats, and best practices for cross-taxon phenotype data analyses represents a novel approach to plant phenomics that enhances the utility of model genetic organisms and can be readily applied to species with fewer genetic resources and less well-characterized genomes. In addition, these tools should enhance future efforts to explore the relationships among phenotypic similarity, gene function, and sequence similarity in plants, and to make genotype-to-phenotype predictions relevant to plant biology, crop improvement, and potentially even human health. © Oellrich et al.; licensee BioMed Central. Source

Thessen A.E.,Ronin Institute for Independent Scholarship | Bunker D.E.,New Jersey Institute of Technology | Buttigieg P.L.,Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research | Cooper L.D.,Oregon State University | And 17 more authors.
PeerJ | Year: 2015

Understanding the interplay between environmental conditions and phenotypes is a fundamental goal of biology. Unfortunately, data that include observations on phenotype and environment are highly heterogeneous and thus difficult to find and integrate. One approach that is likely to improve the status quo involves the use of ontologies to standardize and link data about phenotypes and environments. Specifying and linking data through ontologies will allow researchers to increase the scope and flexibility of large-scale analyses aided by modern computing methods. Investments in this area would advance diverse fields such as ecology, phylogenetics, and conservation biology. While several biological ontologies are well-developed, using them to link phenotypes and environments is rare because of gaps in ontological coverage and limits to interoperability among ontologies and disciplines. In this manuscript, we present (1) use cases from diverse disciplines to illustrate questions that could be answered more efficiently using a robust linkage between phenotypes and environments, (2) two proof-of-concept analyses that show the value of linking phenotypes to environments in fishes and amphibians, and (3) two proposed example data models for linking phenotypes and environments using the extensible observation ontology (OBOE) and the Biological Collections Ontology (BCO); these provide a starting point for the development of a data model linking phenotypes and environments. © 2015 Thessen et al. Source

Berardini T.Z.,Phoenix Bioinformatics | Reiser L.,Phoenix Bioinformatics | Li D.,Phoenix Bioinformatics | Mezheritsky Y.,Phoenix Bioinformatics | And 3 more authors.
Genesis | Year: 2015

The Arabidopsis Information Resource (TAIR) is a continuously updated, online database of genetic and molecular biology data for the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana that provides a global research community with centralized access to data for over 30,000 Arabidopsis genes. TAIR's biocurators systematically extract, organize, and interconnect experimental data from the literature along with computational predictions, community submissions, and high throughput datasets to present a high quality and comprehensive picture of Arabidopsis gene function. TAIR provides tools for data visualization and analysis, and enables ordering of seed and DNA stocks, protein chips, and other experimental resources. TAIR actively engages with its users who contribute expertise and data that augments the work of the curatorial staff. TAIR's focus in an extensive and evolving ecosystem of online resources for plant biology is on the critically important role of extracting experimentally based research findings from the literature and making that information computationally accessible. In response to the loss of government grant funding, the TAIR team founded a nonprofit entity, Phoenix Bioinformatics, with the aim of developing sustainable funding models for biological databases, using TAIR as a test case. Phoenix has successfully transitioned TAIR to subscription-based funding while still keeping its data relatively open and accessible. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Source

Reiser L.,Phoenix Bioinformatics | Berardini T.Z.,Phoenix Bioinformatics | Li D.,Phoenix Bioinformatics | Muller R.,Phoenix Bioinformatics | And 5 more authors.
Database | Year: 2016

Databases and data repositories provide essential functions for the research community by integrating, curating, archiving and otherwise packaging data to facilitate discovery and reuse. Despite their importance, funding for maintenance of these resources is increasingly hard to obtain. Fueled by a desire to find long term, sustainable solutions to database funding, staff from the Arabidopsis Information Resource (TAIR), founded the nonprofit organization, Phoenix Bioinformatics, using TAIR as a test case for user-based funding. Subscription-based funding has been proposed as an alternative to grant funding but its application has been very limited within the nonprofit sector. Our testing of this model indicates that it is a viable option, at least for some databases, and that it is possible to strike a balance that maximizes access while still incentivizing subscriptions. One year after transitioning to subscription support, TAIR is self-sustaining and Phoenix is poised to expand and support additional resources that wish to incorporate user-based funding strategies. © The Author(s) 2016. Source

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