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European Solanaceae Information Network


To provide an internationally accepted taxonomic reference system for the Solanaceae family using and including molecular data. An agreed system of taxon names in a stable classification of sections, genera, etc. is an essential prerequisite for efficient biotechnological utilisation of the Solanaceae. The objectives can be separated into three main areas:-
a) devise a data structure that permits the storage of diverse biotechnological data,
b) select a database management system that understands and accommodates the inherent complexities of taxonomic data caused by synonymy etc.,
c) establish a minimal but expandable taxonomic framework for the Solanaceae that would permit the integration, storage and retrieval of biotechnological data for the family.
The objective of the ESIN pilot project is to link molecular biology and biotechnology information to a taxonomic framework in a database.

A. Database structure.
A new approach to the creation of databases has been incorporated into the ESIN project. The ESIN database is based on an object-oriented model, as opposed to the more common relational data model, and the database software being used is ACEDB. In designing the structure of the database, it was necessary to identify the pivotal aspects of the project, namely the three classes of data, Taxon name, Accession number and Molecular study. Taxonomy is the backbone of the project, therefore the taxon name, along with the original publication details and details of the type specimen is pivotal to the project, i.e. the database is taxon-based. However data from the germplasm Accession class are also pivotal as they are the only link between Taxon and Molecular study.
Besides Taxon, Accession and Molecular study, nine other classes of data were identified viz: Genus, Taxonomic level, Vernacular name, Type specimen, Institute, as well as Author, Publication, Journal and Keyword, all interlinked appropriately. Published data from approximately 300 papers on all aspects of molecular biology and biotechnology have been selected, analysed and entered into the ESIN database. The database focuses particularly on the species level, and covers 71 species of 6 genera. The largest amount of information linked to the Taxon class is related to the selected publications entered into the database, in particular the Keyword class, which directly links the publication class with the Taxon class. The publications selected focus primarily on molecular research, in particular RFLP, RAPD, isozyme and cpDNA studies, which have, either directly or indirectly, taxonomic implications. A CD-Rom of the ESIN database is in the process of being produced, and will be available from March 1997.

B. Pivotal aspects of the project:
Taxonomic Data: Within the family Solanaceae, genera, sections, species, etc., were chosen which exemplified most kinds of taxonomic problems that must be surmounted when developing such a database for plants, yet at the same time many of these taxa are also examples of economically important crop plants grown for food, medicine or other purposes, and many again are important as the subjects of research of diverse kinds in the fields on biotechnology and or molecular biology. Taxa were chosen from Solanum, Lycopersicon, Capsicum, Petunia, Datura and Brugmansia.
Molecular Data: A number of species of the family have been analysed at the molecular level. The data collected are relative and must be considered in the context of other taxa studied by the same methods. As long as no universal and absolute molecular fingerprint data are accepted as taxonomic descriptors, links have to be established between an individual taxonomic entity and the context in which this entity was analysed on the molecular level. This has been done in the ESIN database.
Accession Data: Diverse data on biotechnology, molecular biology, conservation, documentation, evaluation and use of germplasm have been integrated with the germplasm holdings of Solanaceae. The ESIN pilot database has been constructed in a manner that enables the inclusion of data from botanic gardens which are stored in the International Transfer Format (ITF) and accession data from genetic resources centres (gene banks).

C. Publicity for ESIN.
At the Fourth International Solanaceae Congress in Adelaide (1994) several partners presented papers and/or posters connected with ESIN, including one specifically on Solanaceae Information Networks. The ESIN poster and allied papers have been presented at international conferences in Malaga, Budapest, Perth, Amsterdam, London and Southampton. Most of these presentations have resulted in publications. Questionnaires and other market research have helped identification of the requirements of potential end-users of ESIN.

D. Collaboration within ESIN.
Formal and informal meetings combined with abundant communications by all means have fostered development of extensive links between partners and vastly improved mutual understanding and cooperation in very many ways, including exchange of germplasm.
Funding has been pursued vigorously for several new joint projects, namely 1) an extended European Solanaceae Information Network for Biotechnology, 2) Molecular biology of the Solanaceae including mapping the genomes of eggplants, and 3) Conservation and Utilisation of Eggplant Genetic Resources throughout Europe (EGGNET), but without success. We are particularly disappointed that the valuable and carefully prepared EGGNET project has not been funded. This project would have saved irreplaceable germplasm of eggplants and relatives for use in Europe.

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Participants (5)