Email updates

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

This article is part of the supplement: A critical assessment of text mining methods in molecular biology

Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Report

A simple approach for protein name identification: prospects and limits

Katrin Fundel*, Daniel Güttler, Ralf Zimmer and Joannis Apostolakis

Author Affiliations

Institut für Informatik, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Amalienstrasse 17, 80333 München, Germany

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Bioinformatics 2005, 6(Suppl 1):S15  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-6-S1-S15

Published: 24 May 2005



Significant parts of biological knowledge are available only as unstructured text in articles of biomedical journals. By automatically identifying gene and gene product (protein) names and mapping these to unique database identifiers, it becomes possible to extract and integrate information from articles and various data sources.

We present a simple and efficient approach that identifies gene and protein names in texts and returns database identifiers for matches. It has been evaluated in the recent BioCreAtIvE entity extraction and mention normalization task by an independent jury.


Our approach is based on the use of synonym lists that map the unique database identifiers for each gene/protein to the different synonym names. For yeast and mouse, synonym lists were used as provided by the organizers who generated them from public model organism databases. The synonym list for fly was generated directly from the corresponding organism database. The lists were then extensively curated in largely automated procedure and matched against MEDLINE abstracts by exact text matching. Rule-based and support vector machine-based post filters were designed and applied to improve precision.


Our procedure showed high recall and precision with F-measures of 0.897 for yeast and 0.764/0.773 for mouse in the BioCreAtIvE assessment (Task 1B) and 0.768 for fly in a post-evaluation.


The results were close to the best over all submissions. Depending on the synonym properties it can be crucial to consider context and to filter out erroneous matches. This is especially important for fly, which has a very challenging nomenclature for the protein name identification task. Here, the support vector machine-based post filter proved to be very effective.