The Gene Ontology project is a collaborative effort to provide descriptions of gene products in a consistent and computable language, and in a species-independent manner. The Gene Ontology is designed to be applicable to all organisms but up to now has been largely under-utilized for prokaryotes and viruses, in part because of a lack of appropriate ontology terms.
To address this issue, we have developed a set of Gene Ontology classes that are applicable to microbes and their hosts, improving both coverage and quality in this area of the Gene Ontology. Describing microbial and viral gene products brings with it the additional challenge of capturing both the host and the microbe. Recognising this, we have worked closely with annotation groups to test and optimize the GO classes, and we describe here a set of annotation guidelines that allow the controlled description of two interacting organisms.
Building on the microbial resources already in existence such as ViralZone, UniProtKB keywords and MeGO, this project provides an integrated ontology to describe interactions between microbial species and their hosts, with mappings to the external resources above. Housing this information within the freely-accessible Gene Ontology project allows the classes and annotation structure to be utilized by a large community of biologists and users.||