WKU Students Made Publication on International Journal in Biology

Publishing papers in an authoritative, international journal like Bioinformatics did not come easy for anyone, even to many professors in this field, but the undergraduate students Nuo Xu, Dongfang Fu, Shi’ang Li, and Yuxuan Wang from Wenzhou-Kean University (WKU) managed to do the impossible!


GCPred Web Server

In February, their research article – GCPred Web Server (http://gcpred.com) – was published online in the journal. The project was directed by Aloysius Wong, an associate professor in biology with WKU, to achieve automation and simplicity to the search for guanylate cyclases (GCs).



About GCs

Organisms transmit information through signaling molecules, such as hormone and growth factor that are recognized on the surface of cell and penetrate into the cell to catalyze a chain of physiological reactions that allow the organism to grow, multiple, and respond to the environment. 3’,5’-cyclic-GMP (cGMP) acts as the signal of not only vasodilation in human body but also biological responses in plants to light, hormone, salt, drought, ozone, germs and so forth. This signaling molecule is of greater importance to a plant than to an animal because the former is sessile benthos that cannot escape from life-threating environment, which entails reliance on a set of molecular signals like cGMP for adaption to and survival in an unfavorable environment through efficient cell-to-cell communication. The previous GC search was operated manually, which turned out to be very tedious. And the GCs that catalyze cGMP in plants have just been found, still remaining to be well studied.


Application of GCPred Website

The creation of the website solved the problem of searching for GCs. All users have to do is to hit “Submit” after entering amino acid sequence of the target, and the algorithm will automatically identify the GC sequence of the input, then return all the predicted sample count and match score (0-1) to help users better interpret.

This is by far the first-ever tool dedicated to identify GCs.

The research team believed that the creation of such tool would enable new discoveries of this important enzyme by biologists. After all, understanding GCs properties would exert profound impact on both human health and agricultural development. This knowledge could, for instance, build up a platform for the cultivation of new-generation stress-tolerant crops, thereby helping to address food safety issues and stimulating the development of new medicines to human diseases.


Team Members from Different Disciplines

The research team consists of four members from the Department of Computer Science and the Department of Psychology. Biology, as a general education course of WKU, has brought together four students of different majors into a research project under the guidance of Professor Wong. “We’ve indeed encountered many challenges in the course of research.” Nuo Xu said, “The first challenge was time. The project was not established until November 15, 2017. Shortly after that, we made the publication in February 6, 2018. Time is very short.”

“The second one was algorithm, which was what I had been doing. But I had to literally start from scratch and collect a whole lot of data.” He added. A new field of research with limited amount of time was, from his point of view, the common challenge that the whole team faced.

The paper underwent a review in January 15 and was questioned by one of the reviewers about the feasibility of the project. Failing to pass the review would lead to elimination, so the team came together again to overcome the new challenge. The entire specification, with a length of 1,500 words, had been almost completely rewritten, according to Xu. At last, the project won a high score of 7.3 in the second review due to their effort, ranking No.3 among 56 projects.


During the interview Professor Aloysius Wong joyed in the academic progress his students had made. “As you can see, we have students from different disciplines. No matter what academic background a student has, as long as he shows interest in the subject and is willing to work devotedly, he can always come up with his own idea and stick with it to make it work.” Aloysius concluded.

The team had also made a clear plan for the future of the project. Nuo Xu and Yuxuan Wang revealed that they would contact IT department to add “WKU” after the domain name of “GCPred” and integrate it into the website of Wenzhou-Kean University, as their academic achievement of graduation as well as a graduation gift to their alma mater.


Author | Wenjia Cui
Photographer | Yuequn Yu