The development and application of informatics-based systems for the analysis of the human transcriptome
Despite the fact that the sequence of the human genome is now complete it has become clear that the elucidation of the transcriptome is more complicated than previously expected. There is mounting evidence for unexpected and previously underestimated phenomena such as alternative splicing in the transcriptome. As a result, the identification of novel transcripts arising from the genome continues. Furthermore, as the volume of transcript data grows it is becoming increasingly difficult to integrate expression information which is from different sources, is stored in disparate locations, and is described using differing terminologies. Determining the function of translated transcripts also remains a complex task. Information about the expression profile – the location and timing of transcript expression – provides evidence that can be used in understanding the role of the expressed transcript in the organ or tissue under study, or in developmental pathways or disease phenotype observed. In this dissertation I present novel computational approaches with direct biological applications to two distinct but increasingly important areas of research in gene expression research. The first addresses detection and characterisation of alternatively spliced transcripts. The second is the construction of an hierarchical controlled vocabulary for gene expression data and the annotation of expression libraries with controlled terms from the hierarchies. In the final chapter the biological questions that can be approached, and the discoveries that can be made using these systems are illustrated with a view to demonstrating how the application of informatics can both enable and accelerate biological insight into the human transcriptome.