Quality of computationally inferred gene ontology annotations

In the UniProt Gene Ontology Annotation database, the largest repository of functional annotations, over 98% of all function annotations are inferred in silico, without curator oversight. Yet these “electronic GO annotations” are generally perceived as unreliable; they are disregarded in many studies. In this article, we introduce novel methodology to systematically evaluate the quality of electronic annotations.

We then provide the first comprehensive assessment of the reliability of electronic GO annotations. Overall, we found that electronic annotations are more reliable than generally believed, to an extent that they are competitive with annotations inferred by curators when they use evidence other than experiments from primary literature. But we also report significant variations among inference methods, types of annotations, and organisms. This work provides guidance for Gene Ontology users and lays the foundations for improving computational approaches to GO function inference.

This article was published in PLOS Computational Biology.