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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Matching curated genome databases: a non trivial task

Stéphane Descorps-Declère, Matthieu Barba and Bernard Labedan*

Author Affiliations

Institut de Génétique et Microbiologie, Université Paris Sud XI, CNRS UMR 8621, Bât. 400, 91405 Orsay Cedex, France

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BMC Genomics 2008, 9:501  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-9-501

Published: 24 October 2008



Curated databases of completely sequenced genomes have been designed independently at the NCBI (RefSeq) and EBI (Genome Reviews) to cope with non-standard annotation found in the version of the sequenced genome that has been published by databanks GenBank/EMBL/DDBJ. These curation attempts were expected to review the annotations and to improve their pertinence when using them to annotate newly released genome sequences by homology to previously annotated genomes. However, we observed that such an uncoordinated effort has two unwanted consequences. First, it is not trivial to map the protein identifiers of the same sequence in both databases. Secondly, the two reannotated versions of the same genome differ at the level of their structural annotation.


Here, we propose CorBank, a program devised to provide cross-referencing protein identifiers no matter what the level of identity is found between their matching sequences. Approximately 98% of the 1,983,258 amino acid sequences are matching, allowing instantaneous retrieval of their respective cross-references. CorBank further allows detecting any differences between the independently curated versions of the same genome. We found that the RefSeq and Genome Reviews versions are perfectly matching for only 50 of the 641 complete genomes we have analyzed. In all other cases there are differences occurring at the level of the coding sequence (CDS), and/or in the total number of CDS in the respective version of the same genome.

CorBank is freely accessible at webcite. The CorBank site contains also updated publication of the exhaustive results obtained by comparing RefSeq and Genome Reviews versions of each genome. Accordingly, this web site allows easy search of cross-references between RefSeq, Genome Reviews, and UniProt, for either a single CDS or a whole replicon.


CorBank is very efficient in rapid detection of the numerous differences existing between RefSeq and Genome Reviews versions of the same curated genome. Although such differences are acceptable as reflecting different views, we suggest that curators of both genome databases could help reducing further divergence by agreeing on a minimal dialogue and attempting to publish the point of view of the other database whenever it is technically possible.