Re-assembly, quality evaluation, and annotation of 678 microbial eukaryotic reference transcriptomes

Lisa K. Johnson, Harriet Alexander, C. Titus Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: De novo transcriptome assemblies are required prior to analyzing RNA sequencing data from a species without an existing reference genome or transcriptome. Despite the prevalence of transcriptomic studies, the effects of using different workflows, or "pipelines," on the resulting assemblies are poorly understood. Here, a pipeline was programmatically automated and used to assemble and annotate raw transcriptomic short-read data collected as part of the Marine Microbial Eukaryotic Transcriptome Sequencing Project. The resulting transcriptome assemblies were evaluated and compared against assemblies that were previously generated with a different pipeline developed by the National Center for Genome Research. RESULTS: New transcriptome assemblies contained the majority of previous contigs as well as new content. On average, 7.8% of the annotated contigs in the new assemblies were novel gene names not found in the previous assemblies. Taxonomic trends were observed in the assembly metrics. Assemblies from the Dinoflagellata showed a higher number of contigs and unique k-mers than transcriptomes from other phyla, while assemblies from Ciliophora had a lower percentage of open reading frames compared to other phyla. CONCLUSIONS: Given current bioinformatics approaches, there is no single "best" reference transcriptome for a particular set of raw data. As the optimum transcriptome is a moving target, improving (or not) with new tools and approaches, automated and programmable pipelines are invaluable for managing the computationally intensive tasks required for re-processing large sets of samples with revised pipelines and ensuring a common evaluation workflow is applied to all samples. Thus, re-assembling existing data with new tools using automated and programmable pipelines may yield more accurate identification of taxon-specific trends across samples in addition to novel and useful products for the community.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • automated pipeline
  • marine microbial eukaryote
  • re-analysis
  • transcriptome assembly

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics
  • Computer Science Applications


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