The METAFUNCTIONS project, coordinated by the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Bremen (Germany) began on 1 October 2005. This project is pooling expertise in bioinformatics, computer science, geographical information systems and marine sciences to develop a data-mining system that correlates genetic patterns in genomes and metagenomes with contextual environmental data. GRID-Europe is responsible for the development of the "Genomes Mapserver", the Internet-based GIS application to retrieve information from the "environmental/genomic" database.
Scientists are becoming increasingly interested in metagenomes – the collection of genes from organisms in particular environments. The METAFUNCTIONS project, which started on 1 October 2005, is pooling expertise in bioinformatics, computer science, geographical information systems and marine sciences to develop a data-mining system that correlates genetic patterns in genomes and metagenomes with contextual environmental data. This innovative tool will enable scientists to infer functions and activities for sequenced hypothetical genes, thus providing a wealth of information about niche adaptations as well as new enzymes and proteins for medical and industrial use. The ultimate aim is to determine the function as of yet unknown genes, known as hypothetical genes.
In particular, the METAFUNCTIONS project will help to break through the current backlog in assigning function to the vast number of conserved hypothetical genes that high through-put genomic sequencing has produced. Marine ecology, biotechnology, medicine and many industrial sectors could all benefit from the mapping that METAFUNCTIONS will give to ecological genomics.
The development of the METAFUNCTIONS approach is only possible through the integration of the diverse range of expertise from four European institutions in Germany, Switzerland and Poland. The innovative combination has the potential to produce a technology with broad application and high potential pay-off.
The database core of the METAFUNCTIONS project is split in two components: a metagenome/sequence part, managed by the Max Planck Institute and the other partners, and a GIS part for which GRID-Europe is responsible. The role of DEWA/GRID~Europe in the Metafunctions project consists in both developping the "Metagenome Map Server", which is the internet-based GIS application to retrieve and visualize information from the "Environmental/Genomic Database", and in processing selected environmental GIS datasets or environmental descriptors, that will constitute a basis for data visualization and analysis in the "Metagenome Map Server".
In the long-term the proposed "Genomes Mapserver" will become a technology with broad application and high potential pay-off. It will enable the European scientific community to tap into a new mostly unexplored data source. MetaFunctions will have a large impact on European scientific and technological capabilities in marine, aquatic and environmental genomics. It will be possible to create novel inter-disciplinary linkages and thus answer questions of ecological, health and biotechnological relevance.
The version 2.0 of the"Metagenome Map Server" has been released on 1 March 2007. It includes worldwide marine chemical and physical parameters data. At the moment, the WOA (World Ocean Atlas) and WOD (World Ocean Database) dataset are available, as well as Chlorophyll remote sensing data (SeaWiFS). >> metafunctions.grid.unep.ch/mapserver
•Germany: Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Bremen
•University of Geneva jointly with United Nations Environment Programme, Global Resource Information Database – Europe
•Poland: Institute of Computing Science, Poznan University of Technology
•Germany: Technology Transfer Centre, BIBIS, Bremerhaven
Further information can be found at the webpage of the database resources for Marine Ecological GenomiX .