Onto-CC: a web server for identifying Gene Ontology conceptual clusters.

R. Romero-Zaliz, C. Del Val, J. P. Cobb, I. Zwir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The Gene Ontology (GO) vocabulary has been extensively explored to analyze the functions of coexpressed genes. However, despite its extended use in Biology and Medical Sciences, there are still high levels of uncertainty about which ontology (i.e. Molecular Process, Cellular Component or Molecular Function) should be used, and at which level of specificity. Moreover, the GO database can contain incomplete information resulting from human annotations, or highly influenced by the available knowledge about a specific branch in an ontology. In spite of these drawbacks, there is a trend to ignore these problems and even use GO terms to conduct searches of gene expression profiles (i.e. expression + GO) instead of more cautious approaches that just consider them as an independent source of validation (i.e. expression versus GO). Consequently, propagating the uncertainty and producing biased analysis of the required gene grouping hypotheses. We proposed a web tool, Onto-CC, as an automatic method specially suited for independent explanation/validation of gene grouping hypotheses (e.g. coexpressed genes) based on GO clusters (i.e. expression versus GO). Onto-CC approach reduces the uncertainty of the queries by identifying optimal conceptual clusters that combine terms from different ontologies simultaneously, as well as terms defined at different levels of specificity in the GO hierarchy. To do so, we implemented the EMO-CC methodology to find clusters in structural databases [GO Directed acyclic Graph (DAG) tree], inspired on Conceptual Clustering algorithms. This approach allows the management of optimal cluster sets as potential parallel hypotheses, guided by multiobjective/multimodal optimization techniques. Therefore, we can generate alternative and, still, optimal explanations of queries that can provide new insights for a given problem. Onto-CC has been successfully used to test different medical and biological hypotheses including the explanation and prediction of gene expression profiles resulting from the host response to injuries in the inflammatory problem. Onto-CC provides two versions: Ready2GO, a precalculated EMO-CC for several genomes and an Advanced Onto-CC for custom annotation files (http://gps-tools2.wustl.edu/onto-cc/index.html).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)W352-357
JournalNucleic acids research
Issue numberWeb Server issue
StatePublished - Jul 1 2008


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