An Artemis screenshot showing colour-coded genes in a region of a genome
An Artemis screenshot showing colour-coded genes in a region of a genome

What is a genome browser and why do we need one?

In this Step, we introduce genome browsers, which are revolutionary tools that help us to understand genes in the context of whole genomes.

A genome browser is a computer program that displays genomic data in a user-friendly manner. It takes typically very large files, such as whole genome FASTA files and displays them in a way that we users can make sense of the information there. In most cases, genome browsers are designed to integrate different types of data represented in different types of data files. For example, annotation files, those that contain information about the location of genes in the genome, can also be loaded into a genome browser so we can visually inspect the location of the genes. This is important because we can interpret results more intuitively when we can see information in a genomic context and not in isolation (i.e. a single gene sequence).

There are many genome browsers available. What they can do depends on the tasks that are needed by the researchers and the community that makes use of the browser. Many of them can be accessed directly from the internet and they are able to display information from commonly searched or researched organisms. For example, on the advent of the Human Genome Project, the University of California Santa Cruz developed the UCSC genome browser. Nowadays it displays information not only for the human genome but also for many other organisms such as worms and flies.

In this course we are going to use a genome browser designed specifically for use with bacterial genomes. Its name is Artemis, and rather than using it online, we will install it onto our computers and run it “locally”.

But before we proceed to download and install Artemis, let’s learn about its creation and its key features.

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This article is from the free online course:

Bacterial Genomes: Accessing and Analysing Microbial Genome Data

Wellcome Genome Campus Advanced Courses and Scientific Conferences