Prykhozhij, S.V., Marsico, A., and Meijsing, S.H. (2013) Zebrafish Expression Ontology of Gene Sets (ZEOGS): A Tool to Analyze Enrichment of Zebrafish Anatomical Terms in Large Gene Sets. Zebrafish. 10(3):303-15.
The zebrafish (Danio rerio) is an established model organism for developmental and biomedical research. It is frequently used for high-throughput functional genomics experiments, such as genome-wide gene expression measurements, to systematically analyze molecular mechanisms. However, the use of whole embryos or larvae in such experiments leads to a loss of the spatial information. To address this problem, we have developed a tool called Zebrafish Expression Ontology of Gene Sets (ZEOGS) to assess the enrichment of anatomical terms in large gene sets. ZEOGS uses gene expression pattern data from several sources: first, in situ hybridization experiments from the Zebrafish Model Organism Database (ZFIN); second, it uses the Zebrafish Anatomical Ontology, a controlled vocabulary that describes connected anatomical structures; and third, the available connections between expression patterns and anatomical terms contained in ZFIN. Upon input of a gene set, ZEOGS determines which anatomical structures are overrepresented in the input gene set. ZEOGS allows one for the first time to look at groups of genes and to describe them in terms of shared anatomical structures. To establish ZEOGS, we first tested it on random gene selections and on two public microarray datasets with known tissue-specific gene expression changes. These tests showed that ZEOGS could reliably identify the tissues affected, whereas only very few enriched terms to none were found in the random gene sets. Next we applied ZEOGS to microarray datasets of 24 and 72 h postfertilization zebrafish embryos treated with beclomethasone, a potent glucocorticoid. This analysis resulted in the identification of several anatomical terms related to glucocorticoid-responsive tissues, some of which were stage-specific. Our studies highlight the ability of ZEOGS to extract spatial information from datasets derived from whole embryos, indicating that ZEOGS could be a useful tool to automatically analyze gene expression pattern features of any large zebrafish gene set.
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