Superior ab initio identification, annotation and characterisation of TEs and segmental duplications from genome assemblies


Transposable Elements (TEs) are mobile DNA sequences that make up significant fractions of amniote genomes. However, they are difficult to detect and annotate ab initio because of their variable features, lengths and clade-specific variants. We have addressed this problem by refining and developing a Comprehensive ab initio Repeat Pipeline (CARP) to identify and cluster TEs and other repetitive sequences in genome assemblies. The pipeline begins with a pairwise alignment using krishna, a custom aligner. Single linkage clustering is then carried out to produce families of repetitive elements. Consensus sequences are then filtered for protein coding genes and then annotated using Repbase and a custom library of retrovirus and reverse transcriptase sequences. This process yields three types of family: fully annotated, partially annotated and unannotated. Fully annotated families reflect recently diverged/young known TEs present in Repbase. The remaining two types of families contain a mixture of novel TEs and segmental duplications. These can be resolved by aligning these consensus sequences back to the genome to assess copy number vs. length distribution. Our pipeline has three significant advantages compared to other methods for ab initio repeat identification: 1) we generate not only consensus sequences, but keep the genomic intervals for the original aligned sequences, allowing straightforward analysis of evolutionary dynamics, 2) consensus sequences represent low-divergence, recently/currently active TE families, 3) segmental duplications are annotated as a useful by-product. We have compared our ab initio repeat annotations for 7 genome assemblies to other methods and demonstrate that CARP compares favourably with RepeatModeler, the most widely used repeat annotation package.

PLoS One 13:e0193588