Background: A Gene Reference Into Function (GeneRIF) describes novel functionality of genes. GeneRIFs are available from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) Gene database. GeneRIF indexing is performed manually, and the intention of our work is to provide methods to support creating the GeneRIF entries. The creation of GeneRIF entries involves the identification of the genes mentioned in MEDLINE®; citations and the sentences describing a novel function.
Results: We have compared several learning algorithms and several features extracted or derived from MEDLINE sentences to determine if a sentence should be selected for GeneRIF indexing. Features are derived from the sentences or using mechanisms to augment the information provided by them: assigning a discourse label using a previously trained model, for example. We show that machine learning approaches with specific feature combinations achieve results close to one of the annotators. We have evaluated different feature sets and learning algorithms. In particular, Naïve Bayes achieves better performance with a selection of features similar to one used in related work, which considers the location of the sentence, the discourse of the sentence and the functional terminology in it.
Conclusions: The current performance is at a level similar to human annotation and it shows that machine learning can be used to automate the task of sentence selection for GeneRIF annotation. The current experiments are limited to the human species. We would like to see how the methodology can be extended to other species, specifically the normalization of gene mentions in other species.