An assembly of reads, contigs and scaffolds

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Archive for the ‘How it works’ Category

Newbler output V: the 454ContigScaffolds.txt and 454ScaffoldContigs.fna

Posted by lexnederbragt on July 12, 2011

Filling the gaps (picture from

In the post on what is new in newbler version 2.6, I introduced the -scaffold option. Briefly, with this option instances (i.e. the consensus sequence) of repeats are placed in gaps. As I mentioned, setting -scaffold results in two extra files. With this post, I will explain these in detail.

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Running newbler: de novo transcriptome assembly I

Posted by lexnederbragt on August 31, 2010

RNA (source:

Since version 2.3, newbler has a -cdna option for de novo transcriptome assembly. In this post, I’ll explain the principles and setting up the transcriptome assembly. The next post will discuss the output of a transcriptome assembly.

1) Principles of transcriptome assembly

As with other assembly projects, the first steps for transcriptome assembly are identical, and newbler builds a contig graph, see this post. Ideally, the reads coming from the transcript of a certain gene should result in a single contig. However, because of splice-variants (and other sequence particularities), there may be several contigs for each transcript, which themselves form a small contig graph. Splice-variants will result in reads that , relative to other reads have an insert (representing an additional exon in the transcript), thereby breaking the contig graph, see the figure.

Relationship between exons, contigs and isotigs

So, for transcriptome projects, there will be numerous subgraphs each potentially representing one gene. Each of these subgraphs are called an isogroup. Next, newbler will traverse the contigs in the subgraphs of each isogroup to generate transcript variants, which are called isotigs, again, see the figure. There are certain rules for this traversing step, for example, for starting the path and for ending it. Another rule, for complex graphs, is a cutoff such that no more than a maximum number of isotigs are generated per isogroup (by default set to 100 isotigs). If fully traversing the graph will result in more isotigs than this maximum, the contigs of this isogroup are reported in the output instead of the isotigs. Read the rest of this entry »

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How newbler works

Posted by lexnederbragt on February 9, 2010

I thought to start by explaining briefly how newbler works. I’ll do this by following the output newbler generates during the assembly process. This information is displayed during assembly, and can also be found in the 454NewblerProgress.txt file. It is a good thing anyways to have a look at this file, as it sometimes displays certain warnings (see below).

This example assembly is based on a read dataset consisting of both shotgun reads, and paired end reads (for more on 454 paired end reads, have a look here).

The first thing you’ll see is a message stating that the assembly computation started, and which version of newbler you used.

Then, you’ll see messages for each input file saying Indexing XXXXXXX.sff…, and a counter. During indexing, newbler scans the input file, performs some checks and trims the reads (sometimes more than the base-calling software already did). One of the checks is for possible 3′ and 5′ primers: if a certain percentage of reads contains the same sequence on either the 3′ or 5′ end, this is mentioned. I’ve had some surprises here, such as finding out that reads I got from another group contained an adaptor sequence, which caused problems during the assembly. More on primer removal later…

If an input sff file contains paired end reads, this will be mentioned, as well as the number of reads that contained the paired end linker sequence, for example:

224024 reads, 58599257 bases, 112080 paired reads.


Setting up long overlap detection…
XXXXX reads to align
Building a tree for YYYYYY seeds…
Computing long overlap alignments…

The first phase of assembly is finding overlap between reads. Newbler splits this phase into one for long reads (this goes very fast) and shorter reads (can take quite some time). As aligning all reads against each other would take too long time, newbler (and many other programs) actually make seeds, 16-mers of each read, where each seed starts 12 bases upstream of the previous one. These seed length and step sizes can be changed if you want (I’ve never tried this, though). When two different reads have identical seeds the program tries to extend the overlap between the reads until the minimum overlap (default 40 bp) with the minimum alignment percentage default 90%) has been reached. These settings can also be changed and influence the alignment stringency, this I will come back to in a later post. Read the rest of this entry »

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