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Open Access Database

TOBFAC: the database of tobacco transcription factors

Paul J Rushton1, Marta T Bokowiec1, Thomas W Laudeman2, Jennifer F Brannock1, Xianfeng Chen3 and Michael P Timko1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22904, USA

2 Academic Computing Health Sciences, Information Technology and Communication, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22908, USA

3 Department of Microbiology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22908, USA

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BMC Bioinformatics 2008, 9:53  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-9-53

Published: 25 January 2008

Abstract

Background

Regulation of gene expression at the level of transcription is a major control point in many biological processes. Transcription factors (TFs) can activate and/or repress the transcriptional rate of target genes and vascular plant genomes devote approximately 7% of their coding capacity to TFs. Global analysis of TFs has only been performed for three complete higher plant genomes – Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana), poplar (Populus trichocarpa) and rice (Oryza sativa). Presently, no large-scale analysis of TFs has been made from a member of the Solanaceae, one of the most important families of vascular plants. To fill this void, we have analysed tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) TFs using a dataset of 1,159,022 gene-space sequence reads (GSRs) obtained by methylation filtering of the tobacco genome. An analytical pipeline was developed to isolate TF sequences from the GSR data set. This involved multiple (typically 10–15) independent searches with different versions of the TF family-defining domain(s) (normally the DNA-binding domain) followed by assembly into contigs and verification. Our analysis revealed that tobacco contains a minimum of 2,513 TFs representing all of the 64 well-characterised plant TF families. The number of TFs in tobacco is higher than previously reported for Arabidopsis and rice.

Results

TOBFAC: the database of tobacco transcription factors, is an integrative database that provides a portal to sequence and phylogeny data for the identified TFs, together with a large quantity of other data concerning TFs in tobacco. The database contains an individual page dedicated to each of the 64 TF families. These contain background information, domain architecture via Pfam links, a list of all sequences and an assessment of the minimum number of TFs in this family in tobacco. Downloadable phylogenetic trees of the major families are provided along with detailed information on the bioinformatic pipeline that was used to find all family members. TOBFAC also contains EST data, a list of published tobacco TFs and a list of papers concerning tobacco TFs. The sequences and annotation data are stored in relational tables using a PostgrelSQL relational database management system. The data processing and analysis pipelines used the Perl programming language. The web interface was implemented in JavaScript and Perl CGI running on an Apache web server. The computationally intensive data processing and analysis pipelines were run on an Apple XServe cluster with more than 20 nodes.

Conclusion

TOBFAC is an expandable knowledgebase of tobacco TFs with data currently available for over 2,513 TFs from 64 gene families. TOBFAC integrates available sequence information, phylogenetic analysis, and EST data with published reports on tobacco TF function. The database provides a major resource for the study of gene expression in tobacco and the Solanaceae and helps to fill a current gap in studies of TF families across the plant kingdom. TOBFAC is publicly accessible at http://compsysbio.achs.virginia.edu/tobfac/ webcite.