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Open Access Methodology

Mutation Reporter Tool: An online tool to interrogate loci of interest, with its utility demonstrated using hepatitis B virus

Trevor G Bell and Anna Kramvis*

Author Affiliations

Hepatitis B Virus Diversity Research Programme, School of Clinical Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, 7 York Road, Parktown, Johannesburg, 2193, South Africa

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Virology Journal 2013, 10:62  doi:10.1186/1743-422X-10-62

Published: 23 February 2013

Abstract

Background

An online tool, which extracts and summarises nucleotide or amino acid sequence data at specified loci of interest, was developed and tested using the basic core promoter/precore (BCP/PC) region of the hepatitis B virus (HBV). The tool is aimed at researchers without specialist computer skills.

Methods

The tool consists of a web-based front-end, with a CGI script, which runs Python code to generate an output web-page. The Python code searches the input sequence data for a specified anchor motif, after which it generates summary tables and graphs of residue and motif distributions.

Results

After the user provides an input file in FASTA format containing aligned sequence data (nucleotides or amino acids) and specifies an anchor motif at a known coordinate, the tool summarizes the nucleotides or amino acids at the specified loci, their frequency and analyzes motif patterns of the loci.The tool can output a graph that displays the frequency of mutations relative to a reference sequence. The tool was used to analyze the BCP/PC region of HBV belonging to subgenotypes A1, A2 and subgenotype D and to serotype HBV. The “Discovery Mode” ignores conserved loci and assists in identifying potential loci of interest.

Conclusions

Although HBV was used to demonstrate the utility of the Mutation Reporter Tool, the tool has wide application as it is genome-agnostic: nucleotide or amino acid sequence data from any organism can be processed. Rapid characterisation of many sequences can be achieved easily when the loci of interest are known. The tool is available online, without charge, at http://hvdr.bioinf.wits.ac.za/tools webcite

Keywords:
Hepatitis B virus; Mutations; Sequence analysis