NCBI’s First Hackathon: Advanced Bioinformatic Analysis of Next-Gen Sequencing Data

This blog post is geared toward genomics professionals.

From January 5th-7th, 2015, NCBI, in conjunction with the NIH Office of Data Science, held a genomics hackathon, where genomics professionals gathered to write useful, efficient pipelines for people new to genomics.

After we announced the hackathon, over 130 qualified applicants expressed interest in attending. Four team leads chose 23 attendees from this pool, then assigned initial predefined roles and provided biological guidance for a product in one of four subject areas: DNA-Seq, RNA-Seq, Epigenomics and Metagenomics. Continue reading

NCBI RefSeq’s Antimicrobial Peptide Indexed Field: Facilitating Novel Antibiotic Discovery

This blog post is aimed toward biomedical researchers.

Antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections account for the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans every year. Over the past twenty years, these difficult to treat infections have become more common. Since traditional antibiotics are ineffective in these cases, biomedical researchers are looking for alternatives. NCBI’s RefSeq project has created a new indexed field, “Protein has antimicrobial activity [prop]“, to assist in this search by retrieving useful sequence annotation showing naturally occurring antimicrobial peptides, or AMPs.

Antimicrobial peptides are naturally occurring peptides from a diverse array of species that are a part of an organism’s innate immune system. The RefSeq team recently gathered a list of over 130 human genes encoding one or more experimentally proven AMPs. These peptides are typically less than 100 amino acids and can display bactericidal, antiviral, antifungal, and even antitumor activities, with a specific AMP usually having a subset of these activities. AMPs may be a suitable alternative to traditional antibiotics because they work quickly, efficiently, and tend to have broad spectrum activity. Moreover, since they are naturally-occurring, AMPs are less likely than other compounds to be toxic to host cells or to give rise to AMP-resistant bacterial strains. Continue reading

Accessing the Hidden Kingdom: Fungal ITS Reference Sequences

This post is geared toward fungi researchers as well as RefSeq and BLAST users.

Fungi have unique characteristics that can make it difficult to identify and classify species based on morphology. To address these issues, Conrad Schoch, NCBI’s fungi taxonomist, and Barbara Robbertse, NCBI’s fungi RefSeq curator, in collaboration with outside mycology experts, are curating a set of fungal sequences from internal transcribed spacer (ITS) regions of the nuclear ribosomal RNA genes. This set of standard DNA sequences for fungal taxa not only addresses these difficulties in identifying and classifying fungal species by morphology, but is also essential for analyzing environmental (metagenomics) sequencing studies. The curated ITS sequences, described in a recent article in Database (PMC Free Article), all have associated specimen data and, when possible, are taken from sequences from type materials, ensuring correct species identification and tracking of name changes. This article will show you how to access these ITS sequences and search them using the specialized Targeted Loci BLAST service.

The fungal ITS sequences are a RefSeq Targeted Loci BioProject (PRJNA177353). As you may know, a BioProject is a collection of biological data related to a single initiative; in this case, the goal is to collect and curate fungal sequences from targeted loci – specific molecular markers such as protein coding or ribosomal RNA genes used for phylogenetic analysis.

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