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Comp Funct Genomics. 2003 Feb; 4(1): 127–132.
PMCID: PMC2447379

The MGED Ontology: A Framework for Describing Functional Genomics Experiments


The Microarray Gene Expression Data (MGED) society was formed with an initial focus on experiments involving microarray technology. Despite the diversity of applications, there are common concepts used and a common need to capture experimental information in a standardized manner. In building the MGED ontology, it was recognized that it would be impractical to cover all the different types of experiments on all the different types of organisms by listing and defining all the types of organisms and their properties. Our solution was to create a framework for describing microarray experiments with an initial focus on the biological sample and its manipulation. For concepts that are common for many species, we could provide a manageable listing of controlled terms. For concepts that are species-specific or whose values cannot be readily listed, we created an ‘OntologyEntry’ concept that referenced an external resource. The MGED ontology is a work in progress that needs additional instances and particularly needs constraints to be added. The ontology currently covers the experimental sample and design, and we have begun capturing aspects of the microarrays themselves as well. The primary application of the ontology will be to develop forms for entering information into databases, and consequently allowing queries, taking advantage of the structure provided by the ontology. The application of an ontology of experimental conditions extends beyond microarray experiments and, as the scope of MGED includes other aspects of functional genomics, so too will the MGED ontology.

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Selected References

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