An advanced web query interface for biological databases


Latendresse, M., & Karp, P. D. (2010). An advanced web query interface for biological databases. Database, 2010.


Although most web-based biological databases (DBs) offer some type of web-based form to allow users to author DB queries, these query forms are quite restricted in the complexity of DB queries that they can formulate. They can typically query only one DB, and can query only a single type of object at a time (e.g. genes) with no possible interaction between the objects—that is, in SQL parlance, no joins are allowed between DB objects. Writing precise queries against biological DBs is usually left to a programmer skillful enough in complex DB query languages like SQL. We present a web interface for building precise queries for biological DBs that can construct much more precise queries than most web-based query forms, yet that is user friendly enough to be used by biologists. It supports queries containing multiple conditions, and connecting multiple object types without using the join concept, which is unintuitive to biologists. This interactive web interface is called the Structured Advanced Query Page (SAQP). Users interactively build up a wide range of query constructs. Interactive documentation within the SAQP describes the schema of the queried DBs. The SAQP is based on BioVelo, a query language based on list comprehension. The SAQP is part of the Pathway Tools software and is available as part of several bioinformatics web sites powered by Pathway Tools, including the site that contains more than 500 Pathway/Genome DBs.

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