From contigs towards chromosomes: automatic improvement of long read assemblies (ILRA)

Ruiz JL, Reimering S, Escobar-Prieto JD, Brancucci NMB, Echeverry DF, Abdi AI, Marti M, Gómez-Díaz E, Otto TD
Brief Bioinform. 2023;24

Permenent descriptor

Recent advances in long read technologies not only enable large consortia to aim to sequence all eukaryotes on Earth, but they also allow individual laboratories to sequence their species of interest with relatively low investment. Long read technologies embody the promise of overcoming scaffolding problems associated with repeats and low complexity sequences, but the number of contigs often far exceeds the number of chromosomes and they may contain many insertion and deletion errors around homopolymer tracts. To overcome these issues, we have implemented the ILRA pipeline to correct long read-based assemblies. Contigs are first reordered, renamed, merged, circularized, or filtered if erroneous or contaminated. Illumina short reads are used subsequently to correct homopolymer errors. We successfully tested our approach by improving the genome sequences of Homo sapiens, Trypanosoma brucei, and Leptosphaeria spp., and by generating four novel Plasmodium falciparum assemblies from field samples. We found that correcting homopolymer tracts reduced the number of genes incorrectly annotated as pseudogenes, but an iterative approach seems to be required to correct more sequencing errors. In summary, we describe and benchmark the performance of our new tool, which improved the quality of novel long read assemblies up to 1 Gbp. The pipeline is available at GitHub: https://github.com/ThomasDOtto/ILRA.