TOOLS: Making Genetic Connections

Science  07 Nov 2003:
Vol. 302, Issue 5647, pp. 961
DOI: 10.1126/science.302.5647.961b

Genetic pathways govern many of life's biggest choices, from whether a slime mold cell gloms onto others or remains aloof, to whether a nematode hunkers down in a stress-resistant form. GenePath, a network analysis tool from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia, can help researchers discern these genetic “chains of command” in organisms such as fruit flies and nematodes.

Scientists can work out the links by hand from studies of how organisms respond—whether they congregate or sprout spores, for instance—when one or more of the genes doesn't work. But it's a time-consuming headache. “Most people can only think about four or five genes at once,” says geneticist and co-creator Adam Kuspa of Baylor. GenePath automates the analysis, letting users enter results from their own work and findings from the literature. The tool then deduces the interconnections, determining which genes fall in the same pathway. GenePath can also suggest further studies to shore up weak links in the inferred network. Kuspa and colleagues plan to upgrade their creation to accommodate data from gene chips.

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