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Electrophoresis. 1999 Dec;20(18):3492-507.

Exploratory data analysis groupware for qualitative and quantitative electrophoretic gel analysis over the Internet-WebGel.

Author information

1
Laboratory Experimental & Computational Biology, National Cancer Institute, Frederick Cancer Research and Development Center, MD 21702, USA. lemkin@ncifcrf.gov

Abstract

Many scientists use quantitative measurements to compare the presence and amount, of various proteins and nucleotides among series of one- and two-dimensional (1-D and 2-D) electrophoretic gels. These gels are often scanned into digital image files. Gel spots are then quantified using stand-alone analysis software. However, as more research collaborations take place over the Internet, it has become useful to share intermediate quantitative data between researchers. This allows research group members to investigate their data and share their work in progress. We developed a World Wide Web group-accessible software system, WebGel, for interactively exploring qualitative and quantitative differences between electrophoretic gels. Such Internet databases are useful for publishing quantitative data and allow other researchers to explore the data with respect to their own research. Because intermediate results of one user may be shared with their collaborators using WebGel, this form of active data-sharing constitutes a groupware method for enhancing collaborative research. Quantitative and image gel data from a stand-alone gel image processing system are copied to a database accessible on the WebGel Web server. These data are then available for analysis by the WebGel database program residing on that server. Visualization is critical for better understanding of the data. WebGel helps organize labeled gel images into montages of corresponding spots as seen in these different gels. Various views of multiple gel images, including sets of spots, normalization spots, labeled spots, segmented gels, etc. may also be displayed. These displays are active and may be used for performing database operations directly on individual protein spots by simply clicking on them. Corresponding regions between sets of gels may be visually analyzed using Flicker-comparison (Electrophoresis 1997, 18, 122-140) as one of the WebGel methods for qualitative analysis. Quantitative exploratory data analysis can be performed by comparing protein concentration values between corresponding spots for multiple samples run in separate gels. These data are then used to generate reports on statistical differences between sets of gels (e.g., between different disease states such as benign or metastatic cancers, etc.). Using combined visual and quantitative methods, WebGel can help bridge the analysis of dissimilar gels which are difficult to analyze with stand-alone systems and can serve as a collaborative Internet tool in a groupware setting.

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