Microbiology builds upon biological material deposited in biological resource centers (BRCs) as a reference framework for collaborative research. BRCs assign so-called strain numbers to label the deposited material and are responsible for long-term preservation and worldwide distribution of the material. Cultured microorganisms can be deposited into multiple BRCs and BRCs also mutually exchange their holdings. As a result, many different strain numbers can be attached to biological material that stems from the same isolate. In practice, this material is considered equivalent and used interchangeably. This implies that finding information on given biological material requires all equivalent strain numbers to be used when searching. StrainInfo introduces strain passports for microorganisms: a uniform overview of information known about a given microbial strain. It contains all known equivalent strain numbers and information on the exchange history, sequences and related literature of the strain. Each passport has an associated strain browser that gives direct access to the underlying BRC catalog entries on which the passport was based. Taxon, sequence and literature passports are implemented in a similar manner. In addition to web pages that serve human users, integrated information is also offered in machine readable formats useful for automated, large-scale analysis. StrainInfo is envisioned to be an open platform integrating microbial information. This platform can form the basis for new methods of microbiological research, leveraging the vast amount of electronic information available online. StrainInfo is available from http://www.StrainInfo.net.
Keywords: Biological resource center; Semantic integration; Strain browser; Strain passport; StrainInfo.
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