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Open Access Highly Accessed Software

BioWarehouse: a bioinformatics database warehouse toolkit

Thomas J Lee1, Yannick Pouliot1, Valerie Wagner1, Priyanka Gupta1, David WJ Stringer-Calvert2, Jessica D Tenenbaum3 and Peter D Karp1*

Author Affiliations

1 Bioinformatics Research Group, SRI International, Menlo Park, USA

2 Computer Science Laboratory, SRI International, Menlo Park, USA

3 Stanford Medical Informatics, Stanford University, Stanford, USA

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BMC Bioinformatics 2006, 7:170  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-7-170

Published: 23 March 2006

Abstract

Background

This article addresses the problem of interoperation of heterogeneous bioinformatics databases.

Results

We introduce BioWarehouse, an open source toolkit for constructing bioinformatics database warehouses using the MySQL and Oracle relational database managers. BioWarehouse integrates its component databases into a common representational framework within a single database management system, thus enabling multi-database queries using the Structured Query Language (SQL) but also facilitating a variety of database integration tasks such as comparative analysis and data mining. BioWarehouse currently supports the integration of a pathway-centric set of databases including ENZYME, KEGG, and BioCyc, and in addition the UniProt, GenBank, NCBI Taxonomy, and CMR databases, and the Gene Ontology. Loader tools, written in the C and JAVA languages, parse and load these databases into a relational database schema. The loaders also apply a degree of semantic normalization to their respective source data, decreasing semantic heterogeneity. The schema supports the following bioinformatics datatypes: chemical compounds, biochemical reactions, metabolic pathways, proteins, genes, nucleic acid sequences, features on protein and nucleic-acid sequences, organisms, organism taxonomies, and controlled vocabularies. As an application example, we applied BioWarehouse to determine the fraction of biochemically characterized enzyme activities for which no sequences exist in the public sequence databases. The answer is that no sequence exists for 36% of enzyme activities for which EC numbers have been assigned. These gaps in sequence data significantly limit the accuracy of genome annotation and metabolic pathway prediction, and are a barrier for metabolic engineering. Complex queries of this type provide examples of the value of the data warehousing approach to bioinformatics research.

Conclusion

BioWarehouse embodies significant progress on the database integration problem for bioinformatics.