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Ebbie: automated analysis and storage of small RNA cloning data using a dynamic web server

H Alexander Ebhardt1*, Kay C Wiese2 and Peter J Unrau1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, Simon Fraser University, 8888 University Drive, V5A 1S6 Burnaby, B.C., Canada

2 School of Computing Science, Simon Fraser University Surrey, 13450 102nd Ave, V3T 5X3 Surrey, B.C., Canada

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BMC Bioinformatics 2006, 7:185  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-7-185

Published: 3 April 2006

Abstract

Background

DNA sequencing is used ubiquitously: from deciphering genomes[1] to determining the primary sequence of small RNAs (smRNAs) [2-5]. The cloning of smRNAs is currently the most conventional method to determine the actual sequence of these important regulators of gene expression. Typical smRNA cloning projects involve the sequencing of hundreds to thousands of smRNA clones that are delimited at their 5' and 3' ends by fixed sequence regions. These primers result from the biochemical protocol used to isolate and convert the smRNA into clonable PCR products. Recently we completed a smRNA cloning project involving tobacco plants, where analysis was required for ~700 smRNA sequences[6]. Finding no easily accessible research tool to enter and analyze smRNA sequences we developed Ebbie to assist us with our study.

Results

Ebbie is a semi-automated smRNA cloning data processing algorithm, which initially searches for any substring within a DNA sequencing text file, which is flanked by two constant strings. The substring, also termed smRNA or insert, is stored in a MySQL and BlastN database. These inserts are then compared using BlastN to locally installed databases allowing the rapid comparison of the insert to both the growing smRNA database and to other static sequence databases. Our laboratory used Ebbie to analyze scores of DNA sequencing data originating from an smRNA cloning project[6]. Through its built-in instant analysis of all inserts using BlastN, we were able to quickly identify 33 groups of smRNAs from ~700 database entries. This clustering allowed the easy identification of novel and highly expressed clusters of smRNAs. Ebbie is available under GNU GPL and currently implemented on http://bioinformatics.org/ebbie/ webcite

Conclusion

Ebbie was designed for medium sized smRNA cloning projects with about 1,000 database entries [6-8].Ebbie can be used for any type of sequence analysis where two constant primer regions flank a sequence of interest. The reliable storage of inserts, and their annotation in a MySQL database, BlastN[9] comparison of new inserts to dynamic and static databases make it a powerful new tool in any laboratory using DNA sequencing. Ebbie also prevents manual mistakes during the excision process and speeds up annotation and data-entry. Once the server is installed locally, its access can be restricted to protect sensitive new DNA sequencing data. Ebbie was primarily designed for smRNA cloning projects, but can be applied to a variety of RNA and DNA cloning projects[2,3,10,11].