Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Bioinformatics and BioMed Central.

Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Quantitative biomedical annotation using medical subject heading over-representation profiles (MeSHOPs)

Warren A Cheung12, BF Francis Ouellette34* and Wyeth W Wasserman1*

Author affiliations

1 Centre for Molecular Medicine and Therapeutics at the Child and Family Research Institute, Department of Medical Genetics, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada

2 Bioinformatics Graduate Program, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada

3 Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, Toronto, ON, Canada

4 Department of Cell and Systems Biology, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada

For all author emails, please log on.

Citation and License

BMC Bioinformatics 2012, 13:249  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-13-249

Published: 27 September 2012

Abstract

Background

MEDLINE®/PubMed® indexes over 20 million biomedical articles, providing curated annotation of its contents using a controlled vocabulary known as Medical Subject Headings (MeSH). The MeSH vocabulary, developed over 50+ years, provides a broad coverage of topics across biomedical research. Distilling the essential biomedical themes for a topic of interest from the relevant literature is important to both understand the importance of related concepts and discover new relationships.

Results

We introduce a novel method for determining enriched curator-assigned MeSH annotations in a set of papers associated to a topic, such as a gene, an author or a disease. We generate MeSH Over-representation Profiles (MeSHOPs) to quantitatively summarize the annotations in a form convenient for further computational analysis and visualization. Based on a hypergeometric distribution of assigned terms, MeSHOPs statistically account for the prevalence of the associated biomedical annotation while highlighting unusually prevalent terms based on a specified background. MeSHOPs can be visualized using word clouds, providing a succinct quantitative graphical representation of the relative importance of terms. Using the publication dates of articles, MeSHOPs track changing patterns of annotation over time. Since MeSHOPs are quantitative vectors, MeSHOPs can be compared using standard techniques such as hierarchical clustering. The reliability of MeSHOP annotations is assessed based on the capacity to re-derive the subset of the Gene Ontology annotations with equivalent MeSH terms.

Conclusions

MeSHOPs allows quantitative measurement of the degree of association between any entity and the annotated medical concepts, based directly on relevant primary literature. Comparison of MeSHOPs allows entities to be related based on shared medical themes in their literature. A web interface is provided for generating and visualizing MeSHOPs.