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Appl Bioinformatics. 2006;5(4):225-36.

Ontology annotation treebrowser : an interactive tool where the complementarity of medical subject headings and gene ontology improves the interpretation of gene lists.

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  • 1IFM Bioinformatics, Link√∂ping University, Link√∂ping, Sweden.


Gene expression and proteomics analysis allow the investigation of thousands of biomolecules in parallel. This results in a long list of interesting genes or proteins and a list of annotation terms in the order of thousands. It is not a trivial task to understand such a gene list and it would require extensive efforts to bring together the overwhelming amounts of associated information from the literature and databases. Thus, it is evident that we need ways of condensing and filtering this information. An excellent way to represent knowledge is to use ontologies, where it is possible to group genes or terms with overlapping context, rather than studying one-dimensional lists of keywords. Therefore, we have built the ontology annotation treebrowser (OAT) to represent, condense, filter and summarise the knowledge associated with a list of genes or proteins. The OAT system consists of two disjointed parts; a MySQL database named OATdb, and a treebrowser engine that is implemented as a web interface. The OAT system is implemented using Perl scripts on an Apache web server and the gene, ontology and annotation data is stored in a relational MySQL database. In OAT, we have harmonized the two ontologies of medical subject headings (MeSH) and gene ontology (GO), to enable us to use knowledge both from the literature and the annotation projects in the same tool. OAT includes multiple gene identifier sets, which are merged internally in the OAT database. We have also generated novel MeSH annotations by mapping accession numbers to MEDLINE entries. The ontology browser OAT was created to facilitate the analysis of gene lists. It can be browsed dynamically, so that a scientist can interact with the data and govern the outcome. Test statistics show which branches are enriched. We also show that the two ontologies complement each other, with surprisingly low overlap, by mapping annotations to the Unified Medical Language System. We have developed a novel interactive annotation browser that is the first to incorporate both MeSH and GO for improved interpretation of gene lists. With OAT, we illustrate the benefits of combining MeSH and GO for understanding gene lists. OAT is available as a public web service at:

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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