Motivation

Increasing amounts of individual genomes sequenced per species motivate the usage of pangenomic approaches. Pangenomes may be represented as graphical structures, e.g. compacted colored de Bruijn graphs, which offer a low memory usage and facilitate reference-free sequence comparisons. While sequence-to-graph mapping to graphical pangenomes has been studied for some time, no local alignment search tool in the vein of BLAST has been proposed yet.

Results

We present a new heuristic method to find maximum scoring local alignments of a DNA query sequence to a pangenome represented as a compacted colored de Bruijn graph. Our approach additionally allows a comparison of similarity among sequences within the pangenome. We show that local alignment scores follow an exponential-tail distribution similar to BLAST scores, and we discuss how to estimate its parameters to separate local alignments representing sequence homology from spurious findings. An implementation of our method is presented, and its performance and usability are shown. Our approach scales sublinearly in running time and memory usage with respect to the number of genomes under consideration. This is an advantage over classical methods that do not make use of sequence similarity within the pangenome.

Availability and implementation

Source code and test data are available from https://gitlab.ub.uni-bielefeld.de/gi/plast.

Supplementary information

Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.

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