How to use the CROssBAR Web-service?

CROssBAR web-service is especially designed to provide an easy to use interface to the researchers from different fields of molecular life sciences. The horizontal menu at the top has links to provide information about the service, knowledge graphs and about the project in general. The menu also includes example use-cases of COVID-19 knowledge graphs. Search button at the left-most side of the menu displays the main page for constructing user queries.

At the main pane, there is a vertical query menu on the left side of the page. On the right side, there is a blank area to house the knowledge graph once it is constructed.

The user may construct complex queries by simply entering the biological entities she/he is interested in by typing the names/ids in their respective boxes, located inside the vertical query menu.

There are 5 boxes reserved for writing the names of diseases, drugs/compounds, pathways, genes/proteins and phenotype terms, respectively. After typing a few letters, the system suggests terms that exist in the database, which match the typed letters. The user should select a term from this list. Following the selection of a term from the provided list, additional terms can be appended to the same box by continuing to type another name. There are no automated suggestions for small molecule compounds as they are queried via ChEMBL ids, that is in the format of "CHEMBL123456", where the numeric part is the actual identifier.

Taxonomic id filter box is located below the term search boxes. The default value for the taxonomic filter is 9606 (human), since the main focus of CROssBAR is biomedicine. This filter is mainly used to include the genes/proteins of non-human organisms in the query, together with their respective relations. It is possible use the taxonomic filter to include genes/proteins from a few additional organisms namely, Rattus norvegicus (Rat) [10116], Mus musculus (Mouse) [10090], Sus scrofa (Pig) [9823], Bos taurus (Bovine) [9913], Oryctolagus cuniculus (Rabbit) [9986], Saccharomyces cerevisiae (Baker's yeast) [559292], Mycobacterium tuberculosis [83332] and Escherichia coli - strain K12 [83333]. It is possible to include multiple organisms in the query by combining their tax ids in the respective box.

The box located below is used to enter the number of nodes to be included in the network following the enrichment/overrepresentation analysis. For each biomedical entity type (e.g., disease, phenotype, drug, compound, pathway, gene/protein) the terms that are related to genes/proteins in the knowledge graph are ranked starting from the most overrepresented term. The default value for the number of nodes is 10, which means that the top 10 overrepresented pathway, disease, phenotype, drug, compound and gene/protein entries will be included in the knowledge graph.

Following that, there are two buttons, first one to include or exclude the proteins that are directly interacting with the collected core proteins, into the network. This is included in the default version. The second one is used to filter out the unreviewed gene/protein entries (obtained from the UniProtKB/TrEMBL database) from the knowledge graphs to avoid redundancy. The default selection is only including the reviewed gene/protein entries. The user can include unreviewed UniProtKB/TrEMBL database entries to the search by unchecking this box, however, for the cases where the number of reviewed core genes/proteins exceed 50, unreviewed entries are discarded since it increase the number of core genes/proteins to an extent (e.g., thousands) where it is nearly impossible to continue collecting related non-protein terms and to apply enrichment analysis on them. If the user is interested in one or more unreviewed protein entries, it is advised to initiate a query by typing the UniProt accessions of these unreviewed entries in the gene/protein search box and by unchecking the only reviewed gene/protein entries box. The last button at the bottom is used to initiate the automated knowledge graph construction process, following the entering of desired input terms and parameters.

The last button at the bottom is used to initiate the automated knowledge graph construction process, following the entering of desired input terms and parameters.

An Example CROssBAR Query:

In this example, we would like to observe the relations between a disease, gastric cancer and a drug, trifluoperazine, which is an approved antipsychotic agent mainly used in the treatment of schizophrenia. Trifluoperazine has no in vitro, in vivo or clinical studies concerning the treatment of gastric cancer, although there are studies on other types of cancer such as colorectal [1], pancreatic [2], and lung [3], in the literature. There is also a study showing the inverse association between antipsychotic use and the risk of gastric cancer [4]. Thus, this is a convenient scenario for observing unknown relationship between 2 biological entities, gastric cancer and trifluoperazine. The search parameters are shown below.

The knowledge-graph constructed with this query is given below. Query nodes and their edges are highlighted by default in the resulting graph. The user may un-highlight all the nodes and edges by left-clicking on an empty space on the graph area. It is possible to highlight any node and its respective edges by left-clicking on the node of interest.

Trifluoperazine shows its antipsychotic effect by the blockage of dopamine D2 receptor. This relation also appears in the graph, where trifluoperazine binds to DRD2 gene/protein node and it is associated with the dopaminergic synapse pathway. In the KG, trifluoperazine also has other approved targets such as CALM1, ADRA1A and TNNC1 proteins (approved drug-target interaction edges are coloured with green), and these proteins are associated with calcium signalling pathway. Moreover, DRD2 and CALM1 are associated with rap1 signalling pathway, as well. Both calcium and rap1 signalling pathways have other gene/protein associations such as ERBB2, KRAS, and CDH1, which are associated with the gastric cancer disease. Therefore, trifluoperazine can be explored further in terms of its potential to become a repurposed agent for the treatment of gastric cancer, which may show its activity via calcium and rap1 signalling pathways.

KRAS and ERBB2 proteins are also related to other cancer disease nodes such as the pancreatic cancer, cervical cancer, endometrial cancer and cholangiocarcinoma, and associated with HPO terms such as the stomach cancer, which means that trifluoperazine may also have a potential against these cancer types, worthy of further exploration. Other antipsychotic or anxiolytic agents such as risperidone, haloperidol, perphenazine, buspirone, droperidol, and prochlorperazine are enriched in the network as well, which bind to DRD2, CALM1 and/or ADRA1A (with green edges). These drugs may also become alternative repurposing drugs for gastric cancer treatment or other cancers involved in the KG. CALM1, ADRA1A and TNCC1 genes are associated with adrenergic signalling in cardiomyocytes pathway, too. This relation may explain the adverse effects of antipsychotic drugs regarding cardiovascular diseases, in long term usage [5]. In addition to the above mentioned approved drug-target interactions, the graph also includes enriched drugs and compounds having experimentally measured (with blue edges) or computationally predicted (with red edges) bioactivities against the targets DRD2, ADRA1A, EBP, and SIGMAR1. Furthermore, there are a few phenotypes (HPO terms), such as the abnormal urine carbohydrate level and the congenital hypertrophy of retinal pigment epithelium, which are associated with gastric cancer disease node and/or gastric cancer related genes. These phenotypic implications could be helpful for disease diagnosis.


  1. Xia Y, Jia C, Xue Q, et al. Antipsychotic drug trifluoperazine suppresses colorectal cancer by inducing G0/G1 arrest and apoptosis. Front. Pharmacol. 2019; 10:1029
  2. Huang C, Lan W, Fraunhoffer N, et al. Dissecting the Anticancer Mechanism of Trifluoperazine on Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma. Cancers (Basel). 2019; 11:1869
  3. Yeh CT, Wu ATH, Chang PMH, et al. Trifluoperazine, an antipsychotic agent, inhibits cancer stem cell growth and overcomes drug resistance of lung cancer. Am. J. Respir. Crit. Care Med. 2012; 186:1180–1188
  4. Hsieh Y, Chan H, Lin C, et al. Antipsychotic use is inversely associated with gastric cancer risk: A nationwide population-based nested case-control study. Cancer Med. 2019; 8:cam4.2329
  5. Rotella F, Cassioli E, Calderani E, et al. Long-term metabolic and cardiovascular effects of antipsychotic drugs. A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Eur. Neuropsychopharmacol. 2020; 32:56–65

Visualization Options

Considering the visual customization of the constructed graph, it is possible to apply different layout options from "Layout selection" part under "Graph Customization" menu, on the left side of the page. The user has 5 different layout options, which are the CROssBAR layout, circle, grid, cose, and the concentric layout.

It is also possible to arrange node sizes in the graph by moving the blue cursor in the "Size of Nodes" section under the same menu.

If the selected layout is the "CROssBAR Layout", the graph can be displayed either in 4 or 7- circular layers by clicking corresponding buttons. Also, the order of layers can be changed (the ranking is from inside to out) by dragging node types in "# & order of layers" part of the menu. After clicking the "Apply" button, the changes are displayed on the graph.

If the user clicks any node on the graph, "Selected Nodes" menu will appear at the top of the "Graph Customization" menu and it brings specific information for these nodes, including the component type, name, id/link, and the node degree.

The user can click on the "Component List" button under the "Add/remove components" part of the "Graph Customization" menu, which will bring a list of node types in the graph including diseases, HPO terms, pathways, drugs and compounds. Then, the user can hide the nodes from the graph by clicking unwanted node types on the list.

The job id of the related query is available on "Query Parameters" menu, together with search terms and the selected parameters. Each job is saved on the web-server for a limited amount of time. Therefore, it is possible to access the constructed graph later by entering corresponding job id into "Enter Job ID" box on the horizontal menu at the top of the page.

There are different download options to save the graph output. The user can download the constructed KG as a protein-centric table in "csv" file format, which includes proteins in the first column and their interacting biological entities in the remaining columns. The KG can be also downloaded as a network in json format. To see the construction steps of the KG and the enrichment scores of the nodes in the graph, a downloadable query report is also available. As the final download option, the user can export the KG as an image in "png" format, as well. The image can either be exported in terms of the part visible on the screen, or as the whole network, with normal and high-resolution download options.

At the bottom of the vertical menu on the left side of the page, there is a final button named “New Knowledge Graph Query” to allow a new search.