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Concept: Bioinformatics


Human identification from biological material is largely dependent on the ability to characterize genetic polymorphisms in DNA. Unfortunately, DNA can degrade in the environment, sometimes below the level at which it can be amplified by PCR. Protein however is chemically more robust than DNA and can persist for longer periods. Protein also contains genetic variation in the form of single amino acid polymorphisms. These can be used to infer the status of non-synonymous single nucleotide polymorphism alleles. To demonstrate this, we used mass spectrometry-based shotgun proteomics to characterize hair shaft proteins in 66 European-American subjects. A total of 596 single nucleotide polymorphism alleles were correctly imputed in 32 loci from 22 genes of subjects' DNA and directly validated using Sanger sequencing. Estimates of the probability of resulting individual non-synonymous single nucleotide polymorphism allelic profiles in the European population, using the product rule, resulted in a maximum power of discrimination of 1 in 12,500. Imputed non-synonymous single nucleotide polymorphism profiles from European-American subjects were considerably less frequent in the African population (maximum likelihood ratio = 11,000). The converse was true for hair shafts collected from an additional 10 subjects with African ancestry, where some profiles were more frequent in the African population. Genetically variant peptides were also identified in hair shaft datasets from six archaeological skeletal remains (up to 260 years old). This study demonstrates that quantifiable measures of identity discrimination and biogeographic background can be obtained from detecting genetically variant peptides in hair shaft protein, including hair from bioarchaeological contexts.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Gene, Genetics, Bioinformatics, Allele, Molecular biology, Biology


Although published material exists about the skills required for a successful bioinformatics career, strangely enough no work to date has addressed the matter of how to excel at not being a bioinformatician. A set of basic guidelines and a code of conduct is hereby presented to re-address that imbalance for fellow-practitioners whose aim is to not to succeed in their chosen bioinformatics field. By scrupulously following these guidelines one can be sure to regress at a highly satisfactory rate.

Concepts: DNA, Bioinformatics, Chemistry, Thermodynamics, CP/M


Portraying high-throughput genomics research as a wild frontier, Andrea Bild and colleagues use caricatures to highlight common pitfalls in genomic research and provide recommendations for navigating this terrain.

Concepts: Bioinformatics, Genome, Genomics, Research and development


Recent advances in whole-genome sequencing have brought the vision of personal genomics and genomic medicine closer to reality. However, current methods lack clinical accuracy and the ability to describe the context (haplotypes) in which genome variants co-occur in a cost-effective manner. Here we describe a low-cost DNA sequencing and haplotyping process, long fragment read (LFR) technology, which is similar to sequencing long single DNA molecules without cloning or separation of metaphase chromosomes. In this study, ten LFR libraries were made using only ∼100 picograms of human DNA per sample. Up to 97% of the heterozygous single nucleotide variants were assembled into long haplotype contigs. Removal of false positive single nucleotide variants not phased by multiple LFR haplotypes resulted in a final genome error rate of 1 in 10 megabases. Cost-effective and accurate genome sequencing and haplotyping from 10-20 human cells, as demonstrated here, will enable comprehensive genetic studies and diverse clinical applications.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Bioinformatics, Molecular biology, Genomics, Chromosome, Personal genomics


Roughly one in three individuals is highly susceptible to motion sickness and yet the underlying causes of this condition are not well understood. Despite high heritability, no associated genetic factors have been discovered. Here, we conducted the first genome-wide association study on motion sickness in 80,494 individuals from the 23andMe database who were surveyed about car sickness. Thirty-five single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were associated with motion sickness at a genome-wide-significant level (p<5×10-8). Many of these SNPs are near genes involved in balance, and eye, ear, and cranial development (e.g., PVRL3, TSHZ1, MUTED, HOXB3, HOXD3). Other SNPs may affect motion sickness through nearby genes with roles in the nervous system, glucose homeostasis, or hypoxia. We show that several of these SNPs display sex-specific effects, with up to three times stronger effects in women. We searched for comorbid phenotypes with motion sickness, confirming associations with known comorbidities including migraines, postoperative nausea and vomiting (PONV), vertigo, and morning sickness, and observing new associations with altitude sickness and many gastrointestinal conditions. We also show that two of these related phenotypes (PONV and migraines) share underlying genetic factors with motion sickness. These results point to the importance of the nervous system in motion sickness and suggest a role for glucose levels in motion-induced nausea and vomiting, a finding that may provide insight into other nausea-related phenotypes like PONV. They also highlight personal characteristics (e.g., being a poor sleeper) that correlate with motion sickness, findings that could help identify risk factors or treatments.

Concepts: Central nervous system, DNA, Genetics, Bioinformatics, Vomiting, Nausea, Metoclopramide, Postoperative nausea and vomiting


While the cost of whole genome sequencing (WGS) is approaching the realm of routine medical tests, it remains too tardy to help guide the management of many acute medical conditions. Rapid WGS is imperative in light of growing evidence of its utility in acute care, such as in diagnosis of genetic diseases in very ill infants, and genotype-guided choice of chemotherapy at cancer relapse. In such situations, delayed, empiric, or phenotype-based clinical decisions may meet with substantial morbidity or mortality. We previously described a rapid WGS method, STATseq, with a sensitivity of >96 % for nucleotide variants that allowed a provisional diagnosis of a genetic disease in 50 h. Here improvements in sequencing run time, read alignment, and variant calling are described that enable 26-h time to provisional molecular diagnosis with >99.5 % sensitivity and specificity of genotypes. STATseq appears to be an appropriate strategy for acutely ill patients with potentially actionable genetic diseases.

Concepts: DNA, Medicine, Genetics, Bioinformatics, Cancer, Disease, Genetic disorder, Sensitivity and specificity


The practice of Ayurveda, the traditional medicine of India, is based on the concept of three major constitutional types (Vata, Pitta and Kapha) defined as “Prakriti”. To the best of our knowledge, no study has convincingly correlated genomic variations with the classification of Prakriti. In the present study, we performed genome-wide SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) analysis (Affymetrix, 6.0) of 262 well-classified male individuals (after screening 3416 subjects) belonging to three Prakritis. We found 52 SNPs (p ≤ 1 × 10(-5)) were significantly different between Prakritis, without any confounding effect of stratification, after 10(6) permutations. Principal component analysis (PCA) of these SNPs classified 262 individuals into their respective groups (Vata, Pitta and Kapha) irrespective of their ancestry, which represent its power in categorization. We further validated our finding with 297 Indian population samples with known ancestry. Subsequently, we found that PGM1 correlates with phenotype of Pitta as described in the ancient text of Caraka Samhita, suggesting that the phenotypic classification of India’s traditional medicine has a genetic basis; and its Prakriti-based practice in vogue for many centuries resonates with personalized medicine.

Concepts: Genetics, Bioinformatics, Ayurveda, SNP array, Alternative medicine, Traditional medicine, Sanskrit words and phrases, Charaka Samhita


The interaction environment of a protein in a cellular network is important in defining the role that the protein plays in the system as a whole, and thus its potential suitability as a drug target. Despite the importance of the network environment, it is neglected during target selection for drug discovery. Here, we present the first systematic, comprehensive computational analysis of topological, community and graphical network parameters of the human interactome and identify discriminatory network patterns that strongly distinguish drug targets from the interactome as a whole. Importantly, we identify striking differences in the network behavior of targets of cancer drugs versus targets from other therapeutic areas and explore how they may relate to successful drug combinations to overcome acquired resistance to cancer drugs. We develop, computationally validate and provide the first public domain predictive algorithm for identifying druggable neighborhoods based on network parameters. We also make available full predictions for 13,345 proteins to aid target selection for drug discovery. All target predictions are available through Underlying data and tools are available at

Concepts: Pharmacology, Bioinformatics, Cellular network


Data from the 1000 genomes project (1KGP) and Complete Genomics (CG) have dramatically increased the numbers of known genetic variants and challenge several assumptions about the reference genome and its uses in both clinical and research settings. Specifically, 34% of published array-based GWAS studies for a variety of diseases utilize probes that overlap unanticipated single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), indels, or structural variants. Linkage disequilibrium (LD) block length depends on the numbers of markers used, and the mean LD block size decreases from 16 kb to 7 kb,when HapMap-based calculations are compared to blocks computed from1KGP data. Additionally, when 1KGP and CG variants are compared, 19% of the single nucleotide variants (SNVs) reported from common genomes are unique to one dataset; likely a result of differences in data collection methodology, alignment of reads to the reference genome, and variant-calling algorithms. Together these observations indicate that current research resources and informatics methods do not adequately account for the high level of variation that already exists in the human population and significant efforts are needed to create resources that can accurately assess personal genomics for health, disease, and predict treatment outcomes.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Bioinformatics, Human Genome Project, Genome, Genomics, Single-nucleotide polymorphism


Since 2010, the European Molecular Biology Laboratory’s (EMBL) Heidelberg laboratory and the European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) have jointly run bioinformatics training courses developed specifically for secondary school science teachers within Europe and EMBL member states. These courses focus on introducing bioinformatics, databases, and data-intensive biology, allowing participants to explore resources and providing classroom-ready materials to support them in sharing this new knowledge with their students. In this article, we chart our progress made in creating and running three bioinformatics training courses, including how the course resources are received by participants and how these, and bioinformatics in general, are subsequently used in the classroom. We assess the strengths and challenges of our approach, and share what we have learned through our interactions with European science teachers.

Concepts: DNA, Bioinformatics, Molecular biology, Education, European Bioinformatics Institute, Malta, Italy, European Molecular Biology Laboratory