A Database of Drosophila Genes & Genomes

FB2008_07, released August 8, 2008

News and Announcements

FlyBase News
hide Report on the November 2007 FlyBase survey ... Mar 2008

Report on the results of the FlyBase survey undertaken November 2007.

We were very pleased that respondents find that FlyBase is proving a valuable resource, with 65% of using FlyBase once a day or more and 80% finding FlyBase invaluable or very helpful in their genetic research activities. We were also pleased that most respondents who had contacted us for help found our response very good or good (88%). For a detailed breakdown of the results please see the acompanying PDF.

More importantly, your responses have been key in setting our priorities for the future, and we urge you to continue to give us suggestions for how we can improve the ability of FlyBase to assist your research. We need to understand FlyBase users' needs in order to make best use of our limited resources. We received too many suggestions to discuss all of them in this summary, and although all the points that were raised are being considered by the FlyBase team, we would like to highlight here a few of the lessons we learned from the survey.

  • Formalizing the structure of the data can result in reports that are not easy to read and understand. On the one hand users want to find out the basics of what is known about a gene from a short summary written in plain English. On the other hand using "controlled vocabularies" or "ontologies" is essential to produce a database that can be effectively searched (if different terms are used to describe the same thing, then to find all the entries for that thing, you would have to search with all possible terms; if you always use the same term, then one search is comprehensive). These contrasting needs were also reflected in the responses we received, for example when we asked "Are there data that are difficult to interpret because of formatting or presentation?" we received these two opposing responses:
    • "The automated descriptions of gene function are very poor. I reckon that's because GO doesn't work. GO and controlled vocabulary is great for informatics, but awful for the average grad student wanting to do genetics."
    • "The textual descriptions of gene expression are utterly useless for the computational community. Someone should sit down and translate them into the official vocabulary."
    We recognize that both approaches are essential: controlled vocabularies for effective searching and textual descriptions for summarizing subtle aspects of genetic, phenotypic and expression information. We have realized that no single approach will solve all problems, so we will be providing a variety of summaries. We will transfer "Red Book" summaries for the classical markers and visible phenotypes in the adult. Many users found Tom Brody's Interactive Fly a good source of information, and he has kindly agreed to supply FlyBase with his gene summaries. In addition we will set up a gene wiki, so that users can contribute to gene summaries, both in an attributed way or adding to a collective summary. We are investigating other approaches as well and welcome your further suggestions.
  • We are currently working hard to eliminate the problem that one can click on a data topic only to discover there is nothing in that category (empty matryoshka). If you haven't already noticed it, you can use Profile Manager to set your own configurations of which parts of the gene report are open by default.
  • We are significantly accelerating literature incorporation into FlyBase. We will describe our detailed plans separately, but one important feature will be to seek your help, by asking authors to give us key bits of information from the paper on a data entry web site. A number of users also asked for protein interaction data and information about useful reagents, such as antibodies. We will begin to incorporate these data types in the next several months.
  • The phenotypic and expression data need to be improved, and methods developed to improve our ability to search for genes with similar phenotypes or expression patterns.
  • Many of you would like FlyBase search tools to guess, "like Google", at what you are looking for when you type something that is not in the database. FlyBase provides the equivalent of Google spell-checking for symbols by including in the database extensive symbol synonyms. If you search for a known variant of a gene or other symbol, the record will be found. We plan to provide additional help by offering Google-style suggestions based on extension of the letters you have already typed. We will not, however, be able to provide search tools that test for all possible variants of what you have typed (even Google doesn't do that).
  • Information about orthologs and gene families need to be improved. We are replacing the current ortholog identifiers with gene symbols, and if possible names, from the other species. We are also evaluating optimal ways to present alignments and relationships amongst orthologs and gene families, and we expect the first results of these efforts to be publicly accessible in the next several months.
  • We had been concerned that those FlyBase users at great distance from our servers in Indiana might have much slower access to FlyBase; if so, this would have argued for the establishment of FlyBase mirrors around the globe. Here is the perception of the speed of the website from those countries with substantial numbers of survey respondents:
    13 (45%)
    13 (45%)
    3 (10%)
    20 (34%)
    36 (62%)
    2 (3%)
    23 (44%)
    26 (50%)
    3 (6%)
    14 (44%)
    17 (53%)
    1 (3%)
    41 (35%)
    61 (52%)
    14 (12%)
    138 (29%)
    276 (57%)
    63 (13%)
    It can be seen that there is no correlation between the speed of FlyBase site and the country of access; therefore we concluded that mirrors would not improve speed of access to FlyBase. Rather, we expect that the speed of access reflects a complex set of issues such as local network conditions, capacity and configuration of individual desktops, browser choices and other issues that are largely out of our control.
hide Fly Genomes in Nature ... Nov 2007

FlyBase is pleased to call your attention to the publication of the main community papers describing the sequence and analysis of the 12 Drosophila genomes in the November 8 issue of Nature.

These papers and more than 40 companion papers that are being published over the next few months in several journals represent the initial results of analyses of an incredibly rich body of information. This is a landmark event in the long and wonderful history of Drosophila genetics and genomics, and marks a new phase in comparative genomics.

We are indebted to our colleagues who participated in this community effort and are confident that both the Drosophila and the greater scientific community will benefit from their efforts. On behalf of these communities, we wish to thank the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) of NIH for funding the sequencing effort and the participating sequencing centers for producing the sequences and assemblies.

FlyBase is actively working on finalizing the annotation sets for display in FlyBase and for their submission to GenBank on behalf of the Drosophila 12 Genomes Consortium. FlyBase will also provide access to other important data sets from these initial analyses. If you have suggestions/requests for information sets from these analyses that you would like to see displayed or accessible from FlyBase, please use our Contact FlyBase form to send us these suggestions.

The specific references for the main papers are:

Drosophila 12 Genomes Consortium, 2007. Evolution of genes and genomes on the Drosophila phylogeny.
Nature 450, 203-218 (8 November).


Stark et al., 2007. Discovery of functional elements in 12 Drosophila genomes using evolutionary signatures.
Nature 450, 219-232 (8 November).

hide Textpresso for Fly ... Oct 2007

FlyBase is pleased to announce the addition of a link to "Textpresso for Fly", a full-text search engine for the biological literature of the Drosophilidae. Textpresso for Fly currently contains 20,000 full text articles and 39,000 abstracts from the Drosophila literature.

Searches with keywords yield hits that consist of abstracts and (where available) complete sentences from the full text of the matching papers. In addition, more powerful and refined searches can be done with the use of categories. Categories are collections of conceptually related words whose occurrences have been marked up in the full text. For example, if one is interested in finding papers discussing the regulation of bcd, one would type the keyword "bcd" and specify the category "regulation". The search engine then returns sentences from full texts that contain at least one mention of the gene 'bcd' and at least one word or phrase from the list of terms comprising the "regulation" category. The lists of ~100 category types and their constituent terms are easily accessed from the Textpresso site. Links from the Textpresso reports lead users to the FyBase reference reports, from which the FlyBase-curated data can be accessed.

The link to "Textpresso for Fly" may be found in the "Resources" menu of the navigation bar.

FlyBase Announcements
hide Apollo Support ... Sep 2006

From this point forward FlyBase will be providing Apollo viewable annotation data in chado-xml format only. The latest version of Apollo has been modified to retrieve annotation data via the web in this format. Therefore, we recommend that you upgrade to the latest available version of Apollo

We will no longer provide annotation data in GAME-XML format and while Apollo is still able to load and view existing GAME-XML data the data files must be available on the local machine as web retrieval of GAME files is no longer supported.

Please be aware that when Apollo is retrieving annotation data from the web it is obtaining precomputed chunks of xml. While the pieces have been generated to not span any gene models retrieval by sequence range may not result in the exact sequence requested being loaded into Apollo.

Please use the contact FlyBase form to send questions and requests for help to FlyBase.

hide Linkouts in FlyBase ... Mar 2006

FlyBase offers direct "linkouts" from our gene report pages to other web-based Drosophila data services. . The FlyBase Consortium wishes to thank the organizers and developers of these data sets for helping us provide a great deal of valuable information on Drosophila genes and genomes.

  • BDGP in situ Gene Expression Database (http://toy.lbl.gov:8888/cgi-bin/ex/insitu.pl)
  • Drosophila melanogaster Exon Database (http://proline.bic.nus.edu.sg/dedb/index.html)
  • Drosophila RNAi Screening Center (http://www.flyrnai.org/)
  • FLIGHT - Integrating Genomic and High-Throughput data (http://flight.licr.org/)
  • Fly GRID Interaction Data (http://biodata.mshri.on.ca:80/fly_grid/servlet/SearchPage)
  • FlyMine - integrated genomics and proteomics (http://www.flymine.org/)
  • NCBI Gene Expression Omnibus (GEO) (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/projects/geo/)
  • Heidelberg Database for RNAi Phenotypes (http://www.dkfz-heidelberg.de/signaling/ernai/ernai.html)
  • Hybrigenics Drosophila PIMRider (http://pim.hybrigenics.com/pimriderext/droso/index.html)
  • Yale Developmental Gene Expression (http://genome.med.yale.edu/Lifecycle/)
  • InParanoid computed orthology calls (http://inparanoid.cgb.ki.se/index.html)
  • PANTHER ClassificationSystem (http://www.pantherdb.org/)

In addition to these links FlyBase also provide direct links to the Drosophila records in the major international nucleotide, protein and bibliographic databases.

Community News & Announcements
hide Drosophila Genetic Reference Panel White Paper ... Jun 2008

The Drosophila Genetic Reference Panel White Paper 2008 [PDF] proposes

  • "The sequencing of a D. melanogaster genetic reference panel of 192 wild-type lines from a single natural population which have been inbred to homozygosity, and for which extensive information on complex trait phenotypes has been collected. This will create: (1) A community resource for association mapping of quantitative trait loci. Within this project we will demonstrate such mapping and provide candidate quantitative trait polymorphisms for traits relevant to human health. (2) A community resource of common Drosophila sequence polymorphisms (SNPs and indels) with a minor allele frequency (MAF) of 0.02 or greater. These variants will be valuable for high resolution QTL mapping as well as mapping alleles of major effect, molecular population genetic analyses, and allele specific transcription studies, among others. (3) A 'test bench' for statistical methods used in QTL association and mapping studies for traits affecting human disease."
hide Spradling/Gruber Prize ... Jun 2008

FlyBase congratulates Allan Spradling on receiving the Gruber 2008 Genetics Prize

hide Drosophila Researcher Genealogy ... May 2008

Are you in the academic lineage from Thomas Hunt Morgan? The Drosophila Researcher Genealogy begun by Keith Maggert has been expanded and incorporated into the Academic Tree Project. You can now log in and add yourself, your students, your advisors, and collaborators to the tree for Drosophila researchers. The Fly Tree currently includes over 1200 people. Put yourself on the tree at http://www.academictree.org/flytree/

Questions and comments can be directed to Mike Dietrich at: Michael.DietrichlinkDartmouth.edu

hide Pam Lewis's Artwork ... Apr 2008

The family of Ed Lewis has finished a project that Ed Lewis started before his death: to publish the amazing artwork of his wife, Pam. An on-line version of this book can be accessed at http://www.fruitfly.org/lewis/Site/Back.html. Several of her pen and ink and watercolors have been used in posters for scientific meetings. The Lewis family invites you to enjoy them.

hide Seymour Benzer Obituary ... Dec 2007

Dear Colleagues,

It is with sadness that FlyBase notes the passing of one of the true giants of genetics, Seymour Benzer on Nov. 30. Not only did he establish the basic concept of the complementation unit (cistron) through his groundbreaking work on the rII genes in phage T4 in the early days of molecular biology, but he then switched fields completely and founded the modern era of neurogenetics through his seminal work on neurobiology and behavior in Drosophila. The legacy of this work is immense. Just as importantly, he was a dear friend and mentor to many of us and we shall miss him.

hide The Drosophila Board White Paper 2007 ... Nov 2007

Dear Fly Person,

I am writing to ask for your comments on the Drosophila Board White Paper 2007 draft. The White Paper is extremely important for informing funding agencies including the NIH and NSF of our top research priorities for the next 2-3 years. Past White Papers have helped to justify funding for valuable community resources such as insertion mutations, cDNA collections, FlyBase and fly and molecular stock centers. The Drosophila Board White Paper 2007 draft has been assembled by the Board of Directors based on input from many members of the community. For it to accurately reflect the community's priorities, we need your input now. Please download the draft and send me your comments. Do you agree with the priorities? Is something important to your research missing? Are there things in the document you do not agree with? Please send comments even if it is only to endorse the White Paper. The White Paper is most powerful when backed by everyone in the research community including students, postdocs and PI's. Your opinion matters! Download the Drosophila Board White Paper 2007 draft at:


Send comments to trudy_mackaylinkncsu.edu with "White Paper" on the subject line.

Deadline for comments: November 30, 2007.

Thank you for your help,

Trudy Mackay
For the Drosophila Board of Directors

hide Drosophila Network News (bionet.drosophila)
  • Search and read Drosophila network news at www.bio.net
  • Post a new article to dros/bionet.drosophila via the BIOSCI mail-Usenet gateway: droslinknet.bio.net