I am wondering if there's a database to look up the annotation history of an arbitrary gene/ORF, with links to the primary literature for each step of the annotation. I have found that neither NCBI Gene nor NCBI Protein makes this easy.

As a case in point, I was looking at the "TMEM79" gene, which was recently reported as an inhibitor of Wnt signaling: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32924931/. Searching Pubmed for "TMEM79" gave references establishing that this gene has the synonym "Mattin" and has roles in skin allergy and secretion from the Golgi. However, none of the papers I found reference a paper for the origin of the name "TMEM79" itself. Looking at both the gene and the protein in NCBI only gives these same "late" papers, that were evidently published after the annotation "TMEM79" had already been applied to this ORF for some time, and all acted as if this name had simply fallen from the sky without quoting a reference.

Presumably the ORF was first detected by some automated gene scanning program, then subsequently someone (possibly the same group or possibly a completely different one) ran it through a transmembrane prediction program that detected that it was likely an integral membrane protein. However, strangely nobody provides a citation for either of these steps, which I would certainly want to do if I were writing a paper on this gene (as this protein certainly seems never to have been cloned and biochemically characterized in even the most rudimentary manner, computational inferences at the sequence level are the only means to contextualize a role in any biological process).

So I'm wondering, is there a standard database that makes this easy, i.e. given an ORF and an identifier, it returns the literature citation where that identifier was first applied to that ORF? In this case that would clearly point to the transmembrane prediction step because nobody would name an ORF "TMEMxx" unless they thought it was a transmembrane protein. And that would hopefully cite the first identification of the ORF itself, if those were not one and the same paper.


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