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PLAN: a web platform for automating high-throughput BLAST searches and for managing and mining results

Ji He, Xinbin Dai and Xuechun Zhao*

Author Affiliations

Bioinformatics Lab, Plant Biology Division, Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, 2510 Sam Noble Parkway, Ardmore, OK 73401, USA

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BMC Bioinformatics 2007, 8:53  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-8-53

Published: 9 February 2007

Abstract

Background

BLAST searches are widely used for sequence alignment. The search results are commonly adopted for various functional and comparative genomics tasks such as annotating unknown sequences, investigating gene models and comparing two sequence sets. Advances in sequencing technologies pose challenges for high-throughput analysis of large-scale sequence data. A number of programs and hardware solutions exist for efficient BLAST searching, but there is a lack of generic software solutions for mining and personalized management of the results. Systematically reviewing the results and identifying information of interest remains tedious and time-consuming.

Results

Personal BLAST Navigator (PLAN) is a versatile web platform that helps users to carry out various personalized pre- and post-BLAST tasks, including: (1) query and target sequence database management, (2) automated high-throughput BLAST searching, (3) indexing and searching of results, (4) filtering results online, (5) managing results of personal interest in favorite categories, (6) automated sequence annotation (such as NCBI NR and ontology-based annotation). PLAN integrates, by default, the Decypher hardware-based BLAST solution provided by Active Motif Inc. with a greatly improved efficiency over conventional BLAST software. BLAST results are visualized by spreadsheets and graphs and are full-text searchable. BLAST results and sequence annotations can be exported, in part or in full, in various formats including Microsoft Excel and FASTA. Sequences and BLAST results are organized in projects, the data publication levels of which are controlled by the registered project owners. In addition, all analytical functions are provided to public users without registration.

Conclusion

PLAN has proved a valuable addition to the community for automated high-throughput BLAST searches, and, more importantly, for knowledge discovery, management and sharing based on sequence alignment results. The PLAN web interface is platform-independent, easily configurable and capable of comprehensive expansion, and user-intuitive. PLAN is freely available to academic users at http://bioinfo.noble.org/plan/ webcite. The source code for local deployment is provided under free license. Full support on system utilization, installation, configuration and customization are provided to academic users.