Microbiology, Metagenomics and Bioinformatics

Johan Bengtsson-Palme, University of Gothenburg

I am happy to inform you that our paper on ITSx now is out online in Methods in Ecology and Evolution issue 4.10. Meanwhile, I am slowly getting my stuff together on an update that will bring some minor requested features. The publication brings the proper citation of the ITSx paper to be:

Bengtsson-Palme, J., Ryberg, M., Hartmann, M., Branco, S., Wang, Z., Godhe, A., De Wit, P., Sánchez-García, M., Ebersberger, I., de Sousa, F., Amend, A. S., Jumpponen, A., Unterseher, M., Kristiansson, E., Abarenkov, K., Bertrand, Y. J. K., Sanli, K., Eriksson, K. M., Vik, U., Veldre, V., Nilsson, R. H. (2013), Improved software detection and extraction of ITS1 and ITS2 from ribosomal ITS sequences of fungi and other eukaryotes for analysis of environmental sequencing data. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 4: 914–919. doi: 10.1111/2041-210X.12073

An ITSx user (thanks a lot, you know who you are), brought my attention to an issue that might be important to many others as well. For the reason of me overlooking a potentially very useful feature, ITSx does not have an option to preserve the sequence header in the output files. This can of course be very inconvenient in some applications, and will be addressed in an upcoming version. However, I don’t have the time at this very moment to implement and test such a feature for a new ITSx release. Instead, until I get time to do that, I have provided a little Perl-script that can take the headers of the original input file, and copy them to the output file. The script can be downloaded here. (You might have to right click the link to get the script.)

The syntax of the script is:

perl restore_headers.pl <original file> <ITSx output file in FASTA format> [<additional ITSx output files in FASTA format>]

The script saves the files with the old headers in the same directory as the ITSx output files, with the additional suffix “.restored.fasta”. I hope those of you who are missing this ITSx feature will find it useful.

A poor excuse…

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I feel very sorry that I have been a little bit unresponsive for the last couple of weeks. I have received several questions regarding the PETKit and ITSx that i have not yet got around to answer. I am very sorry for that inconvenience. The reason (not a good excuse, but still) is that I have been overloaded with grant applications. This will continue through the rest of september, so please be patient until October if I don’t reply e-mails. If you need a quick response, please state so very clearly, and I might be able to squeeze you in before the start of October. Otherwise, see you at the other end of the tunnel! Thanks for the understanding.

Our new home

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Last Friday, our research group moved into our new facilities at the Department of Infectious Diseases. I am very happy with my new room and my new view, both depicted below.

Our new affiliation is:

Department of Infectious Diseases, Institute of Biomedicine, Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg

Postal address:
Avd. för Klinisk bakteriologi/Virologi
Guldhedsgatan 10
SE-413 46 Göteborg

I have recently started to receive requests for full-text versions of my publications on ResearchGate. That’s great, but I have yet to figure out how to send them over, without breaking any agreements. As I am in a somewhat intensive work-period at the moment, please forgive me for not spending time on ResearchGate right now. And if you would like full-text versions of my publications, please send me an e-mail! I’ll be glad to help!

Our paper on the most recent developments of the UNITE database for fungal rDNA ITS sequences has just been published as an Early view article in Molecular Ecology. In this paper, we aim to ease two of the major problems facing the identification of newly generated fungal ITS sequences: the lack of a sufficiently goof reference dataset, and the lack of a way to refer to fungal species without a Latin name. As part of a solution, we have introduced the term species hypothesis for all fungal species represented by at least two ITS sequences. The UNITE database has an easy-to-use web-based sequence management system, and we encourage everybody that can improve on the annotations or metadata of a fungal lineage to do so.

My main contribution on this paper has been to tailor ITSx functionality for the UNITE database, so that ITS data could be more easily processed for the Species Hypotheses.

Paper reference:
Kõljalg U, Nilsson RH, Abarenkov K, Tedersoo L, Taylor AFS, Bahram M, Bates ST, Bruns TT, Bengtsson-Palme J, Callaghan TM, Douglas B, Drenkhan T, Eberhardt U, Dueñas M, Grebenc T, Griffith GW, Hartmann M, Kirk PM, Kohout P, Larsson E, Lindahl BD, Lücking R, Martín MP, Matheny PB, Nguyen NH, Niskanen T, Oja J, Peay KG, Peintner U, Peterson M, Põldmaa K, Saag L, Saar I, Schüßler A, Senés C, Smith ME, Suija A, Taylor DE, Telleria MT, Weiß M, Larsson KH: Towards a unified paradigm for sequence-based identification of Fungi. Accepted in Molecular Ecology. doi: 10.1111/mec.12481 [Paper link]

An ITSx user informed me a couple of days ago of an issue that caused ITSx to sometimes accidentally remove the HMM-files in the database when multiple ITSx jobs were run in parallel. Although this issue should be relatively rare, it was also very easy to fix. Therefore, we already push out a new version of ITSx (1.0.3), which is available for download here.

In short, the bug was introduced because I overlooked this usage scenario when fixing another bug related to the HMM-files in an earlier pre-release. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that version 1.0.3 will be more long-lived than 1.0.2!

The paper describing our software tool ITSx has now gone online as an Early View paper on the Methods in Ecology and Evolution website. The software just recently left its beta-status behind, and with the paper out as well, we hope that as many people as possible will find use for the software in barcoding efforts of the ITS region. If you’re not familiar with the software – or its predecessor; the fungal ITS Extractor – here is a brief description of what it does:

ITSx is a Perl-based software tool that extracts the ITS1, 5.8S and ITS2 sequences – as well as full-length ITS sequences – from high-throughput sequencing data sets. To achieve this, we use carefully crafted hidden Markov models (HMMs), computed from large alignments of a total of 20 groups of eukaryotes. Testing has shown that ITSx has close to 100% detection accuracy, and virtually zero false-positive extractions. Additionally, it supports multiple processor cores, and is therefore suitable for running also on very large datasets. It is also able to eliminate non-ITS sequences from a given input dataset.

While ITSx supports extractions of ITS sequences from at least 20 different eukaryotic lineages, we ourselves have considerably less experience with many of the eukaryote groups outside of the fungi. We therefore release ITSx with the intent that the research community will evaluate its performance also in other parts of the eukaryote tree, and if necessary contribute data required to address also those lineages in a thorough way.

The ITSx paper can at the moment be cited as:
Bengtsson-Palme, J., Ryberg, M., Hartmann, M., Branco, S., Wang, Z., Godhe, A., De Wit, P., Sánchez-García, M., Ebersberger, I., de Sousa, F., Amend, A. S., Jumpponen, A., Unterseher, M., Kristiansson, E., Abarenkov, K., Bertrand, Y. J. K., Sanli, K., Eriksson, K. M., Vik, U., Veldre, V., Nilsson, R. H. (2013), Improved software detection and extraction of ITS1 and ITS2 from ribosomal ITS sequences of fungi and other eukaryotes for analysis of environmental sequencing data. Methods in Ecology and Evolution. doi: 10.1111/2041-210X.12073

As promised yesterday, I have now uploaded an update to ITSx, bringing it to version 1.0.2. So what’s new in this version?

First of all, ITSx is now taken out of beta and is now considered ready for production use. We do no longer find any bugs in it, and since there’s now a wide range of people already using it for various purposes, we feel confident that any significant bugs would have been unraveled by now.

Secondly, I have also added support for the new HMMER version (3.1b) released in May in this version of ITSx. So you can now go ahead and install HMMER 3.1 if you want to try out the new HMMER beta and still be able to use ITSx.

Finally, we have also updated the manual somewhat, hopefully making it a little easier to use ITSx for a first-time user.

Version 1.0.2 of ITSx can be downloaded from here. As previously, you may still report any bugs, strange behaviors, ideas for new features, or inconsistencies with certain lineages, by mailing to “itsx” at this domain name.

As you might be aware, a new version of HMMER is out since late May. You might wonder how Metaxa (relying on HMMER3) will work if you update to the new version of HMMER, and I have finally got around to test it! The answer, according to my somewhat limited testing, is that Metaxa 1.1.2 seems to be working fine with HMMER 3.1.

You might need to go into the database directory (“metaxa_db”; should be located in the same directory as the Metaxa binaries), and remove all the files ending with suffixes .h3f .h3i .h3m and .h3p inside the “HMMs” directory. On most installation, this should not be necessary. Myself, I just plugged HMMER 3.1 in and started Metaxa, but if you get error messages complaining that “Error: bad format, binary auxfiles, .hmm:
binary auxfiles are in an outdated HMMER format (3/b); please hmmpress your HMM file again”, then you should try removing the files and re-running Metaxa. This might especially be a problem on older Metaxa versions. [Update: Note that this fix will likely not work with ITSx!]

Bear in mind that I have not run thorough testing on Metaxa and HMMER 3.1, and probably won’t for the 1.1.2 version, since there’s a 2.0 version waiting just around the corner…

Additionally, if you experience problems with Megraft, you should try the same fix as for Metaxa, but with the Megraft database directory instead. Regarding ITSx, a minor update will be released very soon, which also will address HMMER 3.1b compatibility. [Update: See this post for how to work around HMMER 3.1 problems with ITSx.]

Happy barcoding everyone!