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Bioinformatics. 2008 Nov 1;24(21):2564-5. doi: 10.1093/bioinformatics/btn477. Epub 2008 Sep 6.

varDB: a pathogen-specific sequence database of protein families involved in antigenic variation.

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Bioinformatics Center, Institute for Chemical Research, Kyoto University, Uji, Kyoto 611-0011, Japan.


Infectious diseases are a major threat to global public health and prosperity. The causative agents consist of a suite of pathogens, ranging from bacteria to viruses, including fungi, helminthes and protozoa. Although these organisms are extremely varied in their biological structure and interactions with the host, they share similar methods of evading the host immune system. Antigenic variation and drift are mechanisms by which pathogens change their exposed epitopes while maintaining protein function. Accordingly, these traits enable pathogens to establish chronic infections in the host. The varDB database was developed to serve as a central repository of protein and nucleotide sequences as well as associated features (e.g. field isolate data, clinical parameters, etc.) involved in antigenic variation. The data currently contained in varDB were mined from GenBank as well as multiple specialized data repositories (e.g. PlasmoDB, GiardiaDB). Family members and ortholog groups were identified using a hierarchical search strategy, including literature/author-based searches and HMM profiles. Included in the current release are>29,00 sequences from 39 gene families from 25 different pathogens. This resource will enable researchers to compare antigenic variation within and across taxa with the goal of identifying common mechanisms of pathogenicity to assist in the fight against a range of devastating diseases.


varDB is freely accessible at

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