The function of a newly sequenced gene can be discovered by determining its sequence homology with known proteins. BLAST is the most extensively used sequence analysis program for sequence similarity search in large databases of sequences. With the advent of next generation sequencing technologies it has now become possible to study genes and their expression at a genome-wide scale through RNA-seq and metagenome sequencing experiments. Functional annotation of all the genes is done by sequence similarity search against multiple protein databases. This annotation task is computationally very intensive and can take days to obtain complete results.
The program mpiBLAST, an open-source parallelization of BLAST that achieves superlinear speedup, can be used to accelerate large-scale annotation by using supercomputers and high performance computing (HPC) clusters. Although many parallel bioinformatics applications using the Message Passing Interface (MPI) are available in the public domain, researchers are reluctant to use them due to lack of expertise in the Linux command line and relevant programming experience. With these limitations, it becomes difficult for biologists to use mpiBLAST for accelerating annotation. No web interface is available in the open-source domain for mpiBLAST.
Scientists at the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing, India have developed WImpiBLAST, a user-friendly open-source web interface for parallel BLAST searches. It is implemented in Struts 1.3 using a Java backbone and runs atop the open-source Apache Tomcat Server. WImpiBLAST supports script creation and job submission features and also provides a robust job management interface for system administrators. It combines script creation and modification features with job monitoring and management through the Torque resource manager on a Linux-based HPC cluster. Use case information highlights the acceleration of annotation analysis achieved by using WImpiBLAST.