Blacksburg, Va. -- Ten articles describing how a universal language to describe genes is bringing benefits to the study of the microbial world have been published in a special issue of Trends in Microbiology, co-edited by Virginia Bioinformatics Institute professor Brett Tyler. The Gene Ontology is a powerful language that gives researchers a shared vocabulary to describe disease-related and beneficial interactions between a microbe and its host. By allowing scientists to link experimental results to a computer-readable language, the Gene Ontology provides scientists with an important bridge between specific experiments that characterize gene function and larger-scale, systems biology efforts to provide a global picture of host-microbe interactions.
The Gene Ontology was started in 1998 by a consortium of three databases for the organisms yeast, fruit fly, and mouse. The Plant-Associated Microbe Gene Ontology (PAMGO) Consortium joined the effort in 2004 to focus on microbe-plant associations, which include the many relationships of plants with bacteria, fungi, oomycetes, and nematodes. VBI researcher Trudy Torto-Alalibo, who coordinates the PAMGO project, remarked: "Advances in sequencing technologies have led to a remarkable increase in the number of sequenced microbial genomes. Analysis of these genomes has provided useful information about genes that may be important in microbe-host interactions. However related genes that have a common function can be missed in sequence comparisons if those genes arose from different evolutionary paths. The Gene Ontology offers a way to overcome such limitations and can greatly facilitate the comparison of gene function across the different domains of life."
Candace Collmer of Wells College, who helped launch PAMGO in 2003, noted: "A crucial step at the beginning of the PAMGO project was the realization that plant pathogenesis is only one possible outcome along a continuum of broadly-defined, sym
|Contact: Barry Whyte|