Yanhui Hu, Richelle Sopko, Verena Chung, Marianna Foos, Romain A Studer, Sean D Landry, Daniel Liu, Leonard Rabinow, Florian Gnad, Pedro Beltrao, and Norbert Perrimon. 2019. “iProteinDB: An Integrative Database of Post-translational Modifications.” G3 (Bethesda), 9, 1, Pp. 1-11.Abstract
Post-translational modification (PTM) serves as a regulatory mechanism for protein function, influencing their stability, interactions, activity and localization, and is critical in many signaling pathways. The best characterized PTM is phosphorylation, whereby a phosphate is added to an acceptor residue, most commonly serine, threonine and tyrosine in metazoans. As proteins are often phosphorylated at multiple sites, identifying those sites that are important for function is a challenging problem. Considering that any given phosphorylation site might be non-functional, prioritizing evolutionarily conserved phosphosites provides a general strategy to identify the putative functional sites. To facilitate the identification of conserved phosphosites, we generated a large-scale phosphoproteomics dataset from embryos collected from six closely-related species. We built iProteinDB (, a resource integrating these data with other high-throughput PTM datasets, including vertebrates, and manually curated information for At iProteinDB, scientists can view the PTM landscape for any protein and identify predicted functional phosphosites based on a comparative analysis of data from closely-related species. Further, iProteinDB enables comparison of PTM data from to that of orthologous proteins from other model organisms, including human, mouse, rat, , , and .
Yanhui Hu, Arunachalam Vinayagam, Ankita Nand, Aram Comjean, Verena Chung, Tong Hao, Stephanie E Mohr, and Norbert Perrimon. 11/16/2017. “Molecular Interaction Search Tool (MIST): an integrated resource for mining gene and protein interaction data.” Nucleic Acids Res, 46, D1, Pp. D567-D574.Abstract
Model organism and human databases are rich with information about genetic and physical interactions. These data can be used to interpret and guide the analysis of results from new studies and develop new hypotheses. Here, we report the development of the Molecular Interaction Search Tool (MIST; The MIST database integrates biological interaction data from yeast, nematode, fly, zebrafish, frog, rat and mouse model systems, as well as human. For individual or short gene lists, the MIST user interface can be used to identify interacting partners based on protein-protein and genetic interaction (GI) data from the species of interest as well as inferred interactions, known as interologs, and to view a corresponding network. The data, interologs and search tools at MIST are also useful for analyzing 'omics datasets. In addition to describing the integrated database, we also demonstrate how MIST can be used to identify an appropriate cut-off value that balances false positive and negative discovery, and present use-cases for additional types of analysis. Altogether, the MIST database and search tools support visualization and navigation of existing protein and GI data, as well as comparison of new and existing data.
Yanhui Hu, Aram Comjean, Stephanie E Mohr, The FlyBase Consortium, and Norbert Perrimon. 8/7/2017. “Gene2Function: An Integrated Online Resource for Gene Function Discovery.” G3 (Bethesda).Abstract
One of the most powerful ways to develop hypotheses regarding biological functions of conserved genes in a given species, such as in humans, is to first look at what is known about function in another species. Model organism databases (MODs) and other resources are rich with functional information but difficult to mine. Gene2Function (G2F) addresses a broad need by integrating information about conserved genes in a single online resource.
2017_G3_Hu.pdf Supplemental Methods.pdf Table S1.xlsx
Julia Wang, Rami Al-Ouran, Yanhui Hu, Seon-Young Kim, Ying-Wooi Wan, Michael F Wangler, Shinya Yamamoto, Hsiao-Tuan Chao, Aram Comjean, Stephanie E Mohr, Stephanie E Mohr, Norbert Perrimon, Zhandong Liu, and Hugo J Bellen. 6/1/2017. “MARRVEL: Integration of Human and Model Organism Genetic Resources to Facilitate Functional Annotation of the Human Genome.” Am J Hum Genet, 100, 6, Pp. 843-853.Abstract
One major challenge encountered with interpreting human genetic variants is the limited understanding of the functional impact of genetic alterations on biological processes. Furthermore, there remains an unmet demand for an efficient survey of the wealth of information on human homologs in model organisms across numerous databases. To efficiently assess the large volume of publically available information, it is important to provide a concise summary of the most relevant information in a rapid user-friendly format. To this end, we created MARRVEL (model organism aggregated resources for rare variant exploration). MARRVEL is a publicly available website that integrates information from six human genetic databases and seven model organism databases. For any given variant or gene, MARRVEL displays information from OMIM, ExAC, ClinVar, Geno2MP, DGV, and DECIPHER. Importantly, it curates model organism-specific databases to concurrently display a concise summary regarding the human gene homologs in budding and fission yeast, worm, fly, fish, mouse, and rat on a single webpage. Experiment-based information on tissue expression, protein subcellular localization, biological process, and molecular function for the human gene and homologs in the seven model organisms are arranged into a concise output. Hence, rather than visiting multiple separate databases for variant and gene analysis, users can obtain important information by searching once through MARRVEL. Altogether, MARRVEL dramatically improves efficiency and accessibility to data collection and facilitates analysis of human genes and variants by cross-disciplinary integration of 18 million records available in public databases to facilitate clinical diagnosis and basic research.
2017_Am J Hum Genet_Wang.pdf Supplement.pdf
Yanhui Hu, Aram Comjean, Charles Roesel, Arunachalam Vinayagam, Ian Flockhart, Jonathan Zirin, Lizabeth Perkins, Norbert Perrimon, and Stephanie E Mohr. 10/11/2016. “—the database of the Drosophila RNAi screening center and transgenic RNAi project: 2017 update.” Nucleic Acids Research. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The FlyRNAi database of the Drosophila RNAi Screening Center (DRSC) and Transgenic RNAi Project (TRiP) at Harvard Medical School and associated DRSC/TRiP Functional Genomics Resources website ( serve as a reagent production tracking system, screen data repository, and portal to the community. Through this portal, we make available protocols, online tools, and other resources useful to researchers at all stages of high-throughput functional genomics screening, from assay design and reagent identification to data analysis and interpretation. In this update, we describe recent changes and additions to our website, database and suite of online tools. Recent changes reflect a shift in our focus from a single technology (RNAi) and model species (Drosophila) to the application of additional technologies (e.g. CRISPR) and support of integrated, cross-species approaches to uncovering gene function using functional genomics and other approaches.

2016_Nucl Acids Res_Hu.pdf
Arunachalam Vinayagam, Meghana M Kulkarni, Richelle Sopko, Xiaoyun Sun, Yanhui Hu, Ankita Nand, Christians Villalta, Ahmadali Moghimi, Xuemei Yang, Stephanie E Mohr, Pengyu Hong, John M Asara, and Norbert Perrimon. 9/13/2016. “An Integrative Analysis of the InR/PI3K/Akt Network Identifies the Dynamic Response to Insulin Signaling.” Cell Reports, 16, 11, Pp. 3062-3074.Abstract

Insulin regulates an essential conserved signaling pathway affecting growth, proliferation, and meta- bolism. To expand our understanding of the insulin pathway, we combine biochemical, genetic, and computational approaches to build a comprehensive Drosophila InR/PI3K/Akt network. First, we map the dynamic protein-protein interaction network sur- rounding the insulin core pathway using bait-prey interactions connecting 566 proteins. Combining RNAi screening and phospho-specific antibodies, we find that 47% of interacting proteins affect pathway activity, and, using quantitative phospho- proteomics, we demonstrate that $10% of interact- ing proteins are regulated by insulin stimulation at the level of phosphorylation. Next, we integrate these orthogonal datasets to characterize the structure and dynamics of the insulin network at the level of protein complexes and validate our method by iden- tifying regulatory roles for the Protein Phosphatase 2A (PP2A) and Reptin-Pontin chromatin-remodeling complexes as negative and positive regulators of ribosome biogenesis, respectively. Altogether, our study represents a comprehensive resource for the study of the evolutionary conserved insulin network. 

2016_Cell Rep_Vinayagam.pdf Supplement.pdf
Arunachalam Vinayagam, Travis E Gibson, Ho-Joon Lee, Bahar Yilmazel, Charles Roesel, Yanhui Hu, Young Kwon, Amitabh Sharma, Yang-Yu Liu, Norbert Perrimon, and Albert-László Barabási. 5/3/2016. “Controllability analysis of the directed human protein interaction network identifies disease genes and drug targets.” Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 113, 18, Pp. 4976-81.Abstract

The protein-protein interaction (PPI) network is crucial for cellular information processing and decision-making. With suitable inputs, PPI networks drive the cells to diverse functional outcomes such as cell proliferation or cell death. Here, we characterize the structural controllability of a large directed human PPI network comprising 6,339 proteins and 34,813 interactions. This network allows us to classify proteins as "indispensable," "neutral," or "dispensable," which correlates to increasing, no effect, or decreasing the number of driver nodes in the network upon removal of that protein. We find that 21% of the proteins in the PPI network are indispensable. Interestingly, these indispensable proteins are the primary targets of disease-causing mutations, human viruses, and drugs, suggesting that altering a network's control property is critical for the transition between healthy and disease states. Furthermore, analyzing copy number alterations data from 1,547 cancer patients reveals that 56 genes that are frequently amplified or deleted in nine different cancers are indispensable. Among the 56 genes, 46 of them have not been previously associated with cancer. This suggests that controllability analysis is very useful in identifying novel disease genes and potential drug targets.

Stephanie E Mohr, Yanhui Hu, Benjamin Ewen-Campen, Benjamin E Housden, Raghuvir Viswanatha, and Norbert Perrimon. 2016. “CRISPR guide RNA design for research applications.” FEBS J.Abstract

The rapid rise of CRISPR as a technology for genome engineering and related research applications has created a need for algorithms and associated online tools that facilitate design of on-target and effective guide RNAs (gRNAs). Here, we review the state-of-the-art in CRISPR gRNA design for research applications of the CRISPR-Cas9 system, including knockout, activation and inhibition. Notably, achieving good gRNA design is not solely dependent on innovations in CRISPR technology. Good design and design tools also rely on availability of high-quality genome sequence and gene annotations, as well as on availability of accumulated data regarding off-targets and effectiveness metrics. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Yanhui Hu, Aram Comjean, Lizabeth A Perkins, Norbert Perrimon, and Stephanie E Mohr. 2015. “GLAD: an Online Database of Gene List Annotation for Drosophila.” J Genomics, 3, Pp. 75-81.Abstract

We present a resource of high quality lists of functionally related Drosophila genes, e.g. based on protein domains (kinases, transcription factors, etc.) or cellular function (e.g. autophagy, signal transduction). To establish these lists, we relied on different inputs, including curation from databases or the literature and mapping from other species. Moreover, as an added curation and quality control step, we asked experts in relevant fields to review many of the lists. The resource is available online for scientists to search and view, and is editable based on community input. Annotation of gene groups is an ongoing effort and scientific need will typically drive decisions regarding which gene lists to pursue. We anticipate that the number of lists will increase over time; that the composition of some lists will grow and/or change over time as new information becomes available; and that the lists will benefit the scientific community, e.g. at experimental design and data analysis stages. Based on this, we present an easily updatable online database, available at, at which gene group lists can be viewed, searched and downloaded.

2015_J Genomics_Hu.pdf
Stephanie E Mohr, Yanhui Hu, Kirstin Rudd, Michael Buckner, Quentin Gilly, Blake Foster, Katarzyna Sierzputowska, Aram Comjean, Bing Ye, and Norbert Perrimon. 2015. “Reagent and Data Resources for Investigation of RNA Binding Protein Functions in Drosophila melanogaster Cultured Cells.” G3 (Bethesda), 5, 9, Pp. 1919-24.Abstract

RNA binding proteins (RBPs) are involved in many cellular functions. To facilitate functional characterization of RBPs, we generated an RNA interference (RNAi) library for Drosophila cell-based screens comprising reagents targeting known or putative RBPs. To test the quality of the library and provide a baseline analysis of the effects of the RNAi reagents on viability, we screened the library using a total ATP assay and high-throughput imaging in Drosophila S2R+ cultured cells. The results are consistent with production of a high-quality library that will be useful for functional genomics studies using other assays. Altogether, we provide resources in the form of an initial curated list of Drosophila RBPs; an RNAi screening library we expect to be used with additional assays that address more specific biological questions; and total ATP and image data useful for comparison of those additional assay results with fundamental information such as effects of a given reagent in the library on cell viability. Importantly, we make the baseline data, including more than 200,000 images, easily accessible online.

2015_G3_Mohr.pdf Reagent Table S1.xlsx
Lizabeth A Perkins, Laura Holderbaum, Rong Tao, Yanhui Hu, Richelle Sopko, Kim McCall, Donghui Yang-Zhou, Ian Flockhart, Richard Binari, Hye-Seok Shim, Audrey Miller, Amy Housden, Marianna Foos, Sakara Randkelv, Colleen Kelley, Pema Namgyal, Christians Villalta, Lu-Ping Liu, Xia Jiang, Qiao Huan-Huan, Xia Wang, Asao Fujiyama, Atsushi Toyoda, Kathleen Ayers, Allison Blum, Benjamin Czech, Ralph Neumuller, Dong Yan, Amanda Cavallaro, Karen Hibbard, Don Hall, Lynn Cooley, Gregory J Hannon, Ruth Lehmann, Annette Parks, Stephanie E Mohr, Ryu Ueda, Shu Kondo, Jian-Quan Ni, and Norbert Perrimon. 2015. “The Transgenic RNAi Project at Harvard Medical School: Resources and Validation.” Genetics, 201, 3, Pp. 843-52.Abstract

To facilitate large-scale functional studies in Drosophila, the Drosophila Transgenic RNAi Project (TRiP) at Harvard Medical School (HMS) was established along with several goals: developing efficient vectors for RNAi that work in all tissues, generating a genome-scale collection of RNAi stocks with input from the community, distributing the lines as they are generated through existing stock centers, validating as many lines as possible using RT-qPCR and phenotypic analyses, and developing tools and web resources for identifying RNAi lines and retrieving existing information on their quality. With these goals in mind, here we describe in detail the various tools we developed and the status of the collection, which is currently composed of 11,491 lines and covering 71% of Drosophila genes. Data on the characterization of the lines either by RT-qPCR or phenotype is available on a dedicated website, the RNAi Stock Validation and Phenotypes Project (RSVP,, and stocks are available from three stock centers, the Bloomington Drosophila Stock Center (United States), National Institute of Genetics (Japan), and TsingHua Fly Center (China).

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Benjamin E Housden, Shuailiang Lin, and Norbert Perrimon. 2014. “Cas9-based genome editing in Drosophila.” Methods Enzymol, 546, Pp. 415-39.Abstract

Our ability to modify the Drosophila genome has recently been revolutionized by the development of the CRISPR system. The simplicity and high efficiency of this system allows its widespread use for many different applications, greatly increasing the range of genome modification experiments that can be performed. Here, we first discuss some general design principles for genome engineering experiments in Drosophila and then present detailed protocols for the production of CRISPR reagents and screening strategies to detect successful genome modification events in both tissue culture cells and animals.

2014_Methods Enzymol_Housden.pdf
Arunachalam Vinayagam, Jonathan Zirin, Charles Roesel, Yanhui Hu, Bahar Yilmazel, Anastasia A Samsonova, Ralph A Neumüller, Stephanie E Mohr, and Norbert Perrimon. 2014. “Integrating protein-protein interaction networks with phenotypes reveals signs of interactions.” Nat Methods, 11, 1, Pp. 94-9.Abstract

A major objective of systems biology is to organize molecular interactions as networks and to characterize information flow within networks. We describe a computational framework to integrate protein-protein interaction (PPI) networks and genetic screens to predict the 'signs' of interactions (i.e., activation-inhibition relationships). We constructed a Drosophila melanogaster signed PPI network consisting of 6,125 signed PPIs connecting 3,352 proteins that can be used to identify positive and negative regulators of signaling pathways and protein complexes. We identified an unexpected role for the metabolic enzymes enolase and aldo-keto reductase as positive and negative regulators of proteolysis, respectively. Characterization of the activation-inhibition relationships between physically interacting proteins within signaling pathways will affect our understanding of many biological functions, including signal transduction and mechanisms of disease.

2014_Nat Methods_Vinayagam.pdf Supplemental
Bahar Yilmazel, Yanhui Hu, Frederic Sigoillot, Jennifer A Smith, Caroline E Shamu, Norbert Perrimon, and Stephanie E Mohr. 2014. “Online GESS: prediction of miRNA-like off-target effects in large-scale RNAi screen data by seed region analysis.” BMC Bioinformatics, 15, Pp. 192.Abstract

BACKGROUND: RNA interference (RNAi) is an effective and important tool used to study gene function. For large-scale screens, RNAi is used to systematically down-regulate genes of interest and analyze their roles in a biological process. However, RNAi is associated with off-target effects (OTEs), including microRNA (miRNA)-like OTEs. The contribution of reagent-specific OTEs to RNAi screen data sets can be significant. In addition, the post-screen validation process is time and labor intensive. Thus, the availability of robust approaches to identify candidate off-targeted transcripts would be beneficial. RESULTS: Significant efforts have been made to eliminate false positive results attributable to sequence-specific OTEs associated with RNAi. These approaches have included improved algorithms for RNAi reagent design, incorporation of chemical modifications into siRNAs, and the use of various bioinformatics strategies to identify possible OTEs in screen results. Genome-wide Enrichment of Seed Sequence matches (GESS) was developed to identify potential off-targeted transcripts in large-scale screen data by seed-region analysis. Here, we introduce a user-friendly web application that provides researchers a relatively quick and easy way to perform GESS analysis on data from human or mouse cell-based screens using short interfering RNAs (siRNAs) or short hairpin RNAs (shRNAs), as well as for Drosophila screens using shRNAs. Online GESS relies on up-to-date transcript sequence annotations for human and mouse genes extracted from NCBI Reference Sequence (RefSeq) and Drosophila genes from FlyBase. The tool also accommodates analysis with user-provided reference sequence files. CONCLUSION: Online GESS provides a straightforward user interface for genome-wide seed region analysis for human, mouse and Drosophila RNAi screen data. With the tool, users can either use a built-in database or provide a database of transcripts for analysis. This makes it possible to analyze RNAi data from any organism for which the user can provide transcript sequences.

2014_BMC Bioinfo_Yilmazel.pdf
Yanhui Hu, Richelle Sopko, Marianna Foos, Colleen Kelley, Ian Flockhart, Noemie Ammeux, Xiaowei Wang, Lizabeth Perkins, Norbert Perrimon, and Stephanie E Mohr. 2013. “FlyPrimerBank: an online database for Drosophila melanogaster gene expression analysis and knockdown evaluation of RNAi reagents.” G3 (Bethesda), 3, 9, Pp. 1607-16.Abstract

The evaluation of specific endogenous transcript levels is important for understanding transcriptional regulation. More specifically, it is useful for independent confirmation of results obtained by the use of microarray analysis or RNA-seq and for evaluating RNA interference (RNAi)-mediated gene knockdown. Designing specific and effective primers for high-quality, moderate-throughput evaluation of transcript levels, i.e., quantitative, real-time PCR (qPCR), is nontrivial. To meet community needs, predefined qPCR primer pairs for mammalian genes have been designed and sequences made available, e.g., via PrimerBank. In this work, we adapted and refined the algorithms used for the mammalian PrimerBank to design 45,417 primer pairs for 13,860 Drosophila melanogaster genes, with three or more primer pairs per gene. We experimentally validated primer pairs for ~300 randomly selected genes expressed in early Drosophila embryos, using SYBR Green-based qPCR and sequence analysis of products derived from conventional PCR. All relevant information, including primer sequences, isoform specificity, spatial transcript targeting, and any available validation results and/or user feedback, is available from an online database ( At FlyPrimerBank, researchers can retrieve primer information for fly genes either one gene at a time or in batch mode. Importantly, we included the overlap of each predicted amplified sequence with RNAi reagents from several public resources, making it possible for researchers to choose primers suitable for knockdown evaluation of RNAi reagents (i.e., to avoid amplification of the RNAi reagent itself). We demonstrate the utility of this resource for validation of RNAi reagents in vivo.

2013_G3_Hu.pdf Supplemental
Xingjie Ren, Jin Sun, Benjamin E Housden, Yanhui Hu, Charles Roesel, Shuailiang Lin, Lu-Ping Liu, Zhihao Yang, Decai Mao, Lingzhu Sun, Qujie Wu, Jun-Yuan Ji, Jianzhong Xi, Stephanie E Mohr, Jiang Xu, Norbert Perrimon, and Jian-Quan Ni. 2013. “Optimized gene editing technology for Drosophila melanogaster using germ line-specific Cas9.” Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 110, 47, Pp. 19012-7.Abstract

The ability to engineer genomes in a specific, systematic, and cost-effective way is critical for functional genomic studies. Recent advances using the CRISPR-associated single-guide RNA system (Cas9/sgRNA) illustrate the potential of this simple system for genome engineering in a number of organisms. Here we report an effective and inexpensive method for genome DNA editing in Drosophila melanogaster whereby plasmid DNAs encoding short sgRNAs under the control of the U6b promoter are injected into transgenic flies in which Cas9 is specifically expressed in the germ line via the nanos promoter. We evaluate the off-targets associated with the method and establish a Web-based resource, along with a searchable, genome-wide database of predicted sgRNAs appropriate for genome engineering in flies. Finally, we discuss the advantages of our method in comparison with other recently published approaches.

2013_PNAS_Ren.pdf Supplement.pdf
Arunachalam Vinayagam, Yanhui Hu, Meghana Kulkarni, Charles Roesel, Richelle Sopko, Stephanie E Mohr, and Norbert Perrimon. 2013. “Protein complex-based analysis framework for high-throughput data sets.” Sci Signal, 6, 264, Pp. rs5.Abstract

Analysis of high-throughput data increasingly relies on pathway annotation and functional information derived from Gene Ontology. This approach has limitations, in particular for the analysis of network dynamics over time or under different experimental conditions, in which modules within a network rather than complete pathways might respond and change. We report an analysis framework based on protein complexes, which are at the core of network reorganization. We generated a protein complex resource for human, Drosophila, and yeast from the literature and databases of protein-protein interaction networks, with each species having thousands of complexes. We developed COMPLEAT (, a tool for data mining and visualization for complex-based analysis of high-throughput data sets, as well as analysis and integration of heterogeneous proteomics and gene expression data sets. With COMPLEAT, we identified dynamically regulated protein complexes among genome-wide RNA interference data sets that used the abundance of phosphorylated extracellular signal-regulated kinase in cells stimulated with either insulin or epidermal growth factor as the output. The analysis predicted that the Brahma complex participated in the insulin response.

2013_Sci Sig_Vinayagam.pdf Supplemental
Yanhui Hu, Charles Roesel, Ian Flockhart, Lizabeth Perkins, Norbert Perrimon, and Stephanie E Mohr. 2013. “UP-TORR: online tool for accurate and Up-to-Date annotation of RNAi Reagents.” Genetics, 195, 1, Pp. 37-45.Abstract

RNA interference (RNAi) is a widely adopted tool for loss-of-function studies but RNAi results only have biological relevance if the reagents are appropriately mapped to genes. Several groups have designed and generated RNAi reagent libraries for studies in cells or in vivo for Drosophila and other species. At first glance, matching RNAi reagents to genes appears to be a simple problem, as each reagent is typically designed to target a single gene. In practice, however, the reagent-gene relationship is complex. Although the sequences of oligonucleotides used to generate most types of RNAi reagents are static, the reference genome and gene annotations are regularly updated. Thus, at the time a researcher chooses an RNAi reagent or analyzes RNAi data, the most current interpretation of the RNAi reagent-gene relationship, as well as related information regarding specificity (e.g., predicted off-target effects), can be different from the original interpretation. Here, we describe a set of strategies and an accompanying online tool, UP-TORR (for Updated Targets of RNAi Reagents;, useful for accurate and up-to-date annotation of cell-based and in vivo RNAi reagents. Importantly, UP-TORR automatically synchronizes with gene annotations daily, retrieving the most current information available, and for Drosophila, also synchronizes with the major reagent collections. Thus, UP-TORR allows users to choose the most appropriate RNAi reagents at the onset of a study, as well as to perform the most appropriate analyses of results of RNAi-based studies.

2013_Genetics_Hu.pdf Supplement.pdf
Marcelo Perez-Pepe, Victoria Slomiansky, Mariela Loschi, Luciana Luchelli, Maximiliano Neme, María Gabriela Thomas, and Graciela Lidia Boccaccio. 2012. “BUHO: a MATLAB script for the study of stress granules and processing bodies by high-throughput image analysis.” PLoS One, 7, 12, Pp. e51495.Abstract

The spontaneous and reversible formation of foci and filaments that contain proteins involved in different metabolic processes is common in both the nucleus and the cytoplasm. Stress granules (SGs) and processing bodies (PBs) belong to a novel family of cellular structures collectively known as mRNA silencing foci that harbour repressed mRNAs and their associated proteins. SGs and PBs are highly dynamic and they form upon stress and dissolve thus releasing the repressed mRNAs according to changes in cell physiology. In addition, aggregates containing abnormal proteins are frequent in neurodegenerative disorders. In spite of the growing relevance of these supramolecular aggregates to diverse cellular functions a reliable automated tool for their systematic analysis is lacking. Here we report a MATLAB Script termed BUHO for the high-throughput image analysis of cellular foci. We used BUHO to assess the number, size and distribution of distinct objects with minimal deviation from manually obtained parameters. BUHO successfully addressed the induction of both SGs and PBs in mammalian and insect cells exposed to different stress stimuli. We also used BUHO to assess the dynamics of specific mRNA-silencing foci termed Smaug 1 foci (S-foci) in primary neurons upon synaptic stimulation. Finally, we used BUHO to analyze the role of candidate genes on SG formation in an RNAi-based experiment. We found that FAK56D, GCN2 and PP1 govern SG formation. The role of PP1 is conserved in mammalian cells as judged by the effect of the PP1 inhibitor salubrinal, and involves dephosphorylation of the translation factor eIF2α. All these experiments were analyzed manually and by BUHO and the results differed in less than 5% of the average value. The automated analysis by this user-friendly method will allow high-throughput image processing in short times by providing a robust, flexible and reliable alternative to the laborious and sometimes unfeasible visual scrutiny.

2012_PLOS One_Perez-Pepe.pdf Supplemental
Ian T Flockhart, Matthew Booker, Yanhui Hu, Benjamin McElvany, Quentin Gilly, Bernard Mathey-Prevot, Norbert Perrimon, and Stephanie E Mohr. 2012. “ database of the Drosophila RNAi screening center: 2012 update.” Nucleic Acids Res, 40, Database issue, Pp. D715-9.Abstract

FlyRNAi (, the database and website of the Drosophila RNAi Screening Center (DRSC) at Harvard Medical School, serves a dual role, tracking both production of reagents for RNA interference (RNAi) screening in Drosophila cells and RNAi screen results. The database and website is used as a platform for community availability of protocols, tools, and other resources useful to researchers planning, conducting, analyzing or interpreting the results of Drosophila RNAi screens. Based on our own experience and user feedback, we have made several changes. Specifically, we have restructured the database to accommodate new types of reagents; added information about new RNAi libraries and other reagents; updated the user interface and website; and added new tools of use to the Drosophila community and others. Overall, the result is a more useful, flexible and comprehensive website and database.

2012_Nuc Acids Res_Flockhart.pdf