Representing complex descriptions using a limited set of relations is possible, but unwieldy and complex. Some formalisms such as OBO and simple graph formalisms require the ontology to a graph with labeled nodes.
Shortcut relations can be used in place of multiple relations and classes.
Shortcut or macro relations are described in section 7 of the oboformat spec, although in fact they are designed primarily as OWL->OWL translations.
Available as part of
- http://code.google.com/p/oboformat basic reference obo2owl converter
- Oort the OBO ontology release tool
Note that Oort can take OWL ontologies as input. It gives you the option of expanding macros in place (replacement strategy) or generating a separate external ontology of General Class Inclusion (GCI) axioms
- Chris Mungall, David Osumi-Sutherland, Alan Ruttenberg Taking shortcuts with OWL using safe macros June 2010