A knowledgebase of the human Alu repetitive elements

Mallona I, Jordà M, Peinado MA. A knowledgebase of the human Alu repetitive elements. J Biomed Inform. 60:77-83, 2016.  doi: 10.1016/j.jbi.2016.01.010.


Alu elements are the most abundant retrotransposons in the human genome with more than one million copies. Alu repeats have been reported to participate in multiple processes related with genome regulation and compartmentalization. Moreover, they have been involved in the facilitation of pathological mutations in many diseases, including cancer. The contribution of Alus and other repeats in genomic regulation is often overlooked because their study poses technical and analytical challenges hardly attainable with conventional strategies. Here we propose the integration of ontology-based semantic methods to query a knowledgebase for the human Alus. The knowledgebase for the human Alus leverages Sequence (SO) and Gene Ontologies (GO) and is devoted to address functional and genetic information in the genomic context of the Alus. For each Alu element, the closest gene and transcript are stored, as well their functional annotation according to GO, the state of the chromatin and the transcription factors binding sites inside the Alu. The model uses Web Ontology Language (OWL) and Semantic Web Rule Language (SWRL). As a case of use and to illustrate the utility of the tool, we have evaluated the epigenetic states of Alu repeats associated with gene promoters according to their transcriptional activity. The ontology is easily extendable, offering a scaffold for the inclusion of new experimental data. The RDF/XML formalization is freely available at http://aluontology.sourceforge.net/.

PMID: 26827622


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