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Cold Spring Harb Protoc. 2015 Dec 2;2015(12):pdb.prot088914. doi: 10.1101/pdb.prot088914.

The Saccharomyces Genome Database: Gene Product Annotation of Function, Process, and Component.

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Department of Genetics, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California 94305-5120.


An ontology is a highly structured form of controlled vocabulary. Each entry in the ontology is commonly called a term. These terms are used when talking about an annotation. However, each term has a definition that, like the definition of a word found within a dictionary, provides the complete usage and detailed explanation of the term. It is critical to consult a term's definition because the distinction between terms can be subtle. The use of ontologies in biology started as a way of unifying communication between scientific communities and to provide a standard dictionary for different topics, including molecular functions, biological processes, mutant phenotypes, chemical properties and structures. The creation of ontology terms and their definitions often requires debate to reach agreement but the result has been a unified descriptive language used to communicate knowledge. In addition to terms and definitions, ontologies require a relationship used to define the type of connection between terms. In an ontology, a term can have more than one parent term, the term above it in an ontology, as well as more than one child, the term below it in the ontology. Many ontologies are used to construct annotations in the Saccharomyces Genome Database (SGD), as in all modern biological databases; however, Gene Ontology (GO), a descriptive system used to categorize gene function, is the most extensively used ontology in SGD annotations. Examples included in this protocol illustrate the structure and features of this ontology.

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