Improved ontology for eukaryotic single-exon coding sequences in biological databases

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Efficient extraction of knowledge from biological data requires the development of structured vocabularies to unambiguously define biological terms. This paper proposes descriptions and definitions to disambiguate the term ‘single-exon gene’. Eukaryotic Single-Exon Genes (SEGs) have been defined as genes that do not have introns in their protein coding sequences. They have been studied not only to determine their origin and evolution but also because their expression has been linked to several types of human cancer and neurological/developmental disorders and many exhibit tissue-specific transcription. Unfortunately, the term ‘SEGs’ is rife with ambiguity, leading to biological misinterpretations. In the classic definition, no distinction is made between SEGs that harbor introns in their untranslated regions (UTRs) versus those without. This distinction is important to make because the presence of introns in UTRs affects transcriptional regulation and post-transcriptional processing of the mRNA. In addition, recent whole-transcriptome shotgun sequencing has led to the discovery of many examples of single-exon mRNAs that arise from alternative splicing of multi-exon genes, these single-exon isoforms are being confused with SEGs despite their clearly different origin. The increasing expansion of RNA-seq datasets makes it imperative to distinguish the different SEG types before annotation errors become indelibly propagated in biological databases. This paper develops a structured vocabulary for their disambiguation, allowing a major reassessment of their evolutionary trajectories, regulation, RNA processing and transport, and provides the opportunity to improve the detection of gene associations with disorders including cancers, neurological and developmental diseases.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberbay089
JournalDatabase
Volume2018
Issue number1
Number of pages6
ISSN1758-0463
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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