Finding homologs of a gene in a genomeΒΆ

In this example we use a combination of a KmerTable and align_banded() to search a genome for homologs to a gene from another organism. Specifically we take the gene coding for the M1 RNA from Escherichia coli BL21, an RNA subunit of the ribonuclease P, and try to find the counterpart in the genome of Salmonella enterica.

This approach has a high performance compared to align_optimal() and is similar to the method used by software like BLAST.

At first the sequences for the M1 coding gene and the S. enterica genome are downloaded from NCBI Entrez.

# Code source: Patrick Kunzmann
# License: BSD 3 clause

import numpy as np
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt
from matplotlib.collections import LineCollection
import biotite
import biotite.sequence as seq
import as fasta
import as gb
import as seqgraphics
import biotite.sequence.align as align
import biotite.database.entrez as entrez
import as strucgraphics
import biotite.application.viennarna as viennarna

# Download Escherichia coli BL21 and Salmonella enterica genome
gb_file =
    ["CP001509", "CP019649"], None, "nuccore", "gb"
ec_file, se_file = tuple(gb_file)

annot_seq = gb.get_annotated_sequence(ec_file, include_only=["ncRNA"])
# Find M1 gene in E. coli genome via its annotation
for feature in annot_seq.annotation:
    if "product" in feature.qual and "RNase P" in feature.qual["product"]:
        m1_sequence = annot_seq[feature]

# Get S. enterica genome sequence
se_genome = gb.get_sequence(se_file)

# We want to search in the genome sequence and its reverse complement
genomic_seqs = [se_genome, se_genome.reverse().complement()]

In an initial fast matching step, we look for matching k-mers between M1 and the S. enterica genome. A matching k-mer is a length k subsequence, that appears in both sequences. In Biotite this task is carried out by a KmerTable.

Later we will perform costly gapped alignments at the match positions. To reduce the number of triggered gapped alignments at unspecific matches, we add some additional filters: One extra condition is that two non-overlapping matches must appear on the same diagonal \(D = j - i\), where i and j are the sequence positions in the match. Furthermore, only one match is considered in a defined range of diagonals, as small deviations from the diagonal appear due to indels. Without this filter, multiple gapped alignments would be triggered in basically the same region, leading to redundant alignments.

K = 12

table = align.KmerTable.from_sequences(K, genomic_seqs)
matches = table.match(m1_sequence)

fig = plt.figure(figsize=(8.0, 8.0))

trigger_matches = []
# 0 represents the original genome sequence, 1 the reverse complement
for strand in (0, 1):
    matches_for_strand = matches[matches[:,1] == strand]

    # Plot match positions
    ax = fig.add_subplot(1, 2, strand+1)
        matches_for_strand[:,0], matches_for_strand[:,2] / 1e6,
        s=4, marker="o", color=biotite.colors["dimorange"]
    ax.set_xlim(0, len(m1_sequence))
    ax.set_ylim(0, len(se_genome) / 1e6)
    ax.set_xlabel("E. coli M1 position (b)")
    if strand == 0:
        ax.set_ylabel("S. enterica genome position (Mb)")
    else: # strand == 1
        ax.set_ylabel("S. enterica genome position (Mb) (reverse complement)")

    # Check if there are two adjacent matches on the same diagonal
    diagonals = matches_for_strand[:,2] - matches_for_strand[:,0]
    unique_diag = np.unique(diagonals)
    trigger_diagonals = np.array([], dtype=int)
    for diag in unique_diag:
        if np.any(np.abs(trigger_diagonals - diag) < DISCARD_RANGE):
            # Discard the matches for this diagonal if this diagonal
            # is too close to a diagonal that already triggers
            # a gapped alignment
        matches_for_diagonal = matches_for_strand[diagonals == diag]
        m1_positions = matches_for_diagonal[:, 0]
        for pos in m1_positions:
            distances = m1_positions - pos
            # The other match on the same diagonal should not overlap
            # with this match and should be within a cutoff range
            if np.any((distances > K) & (distances < DISCARD_RANGE)):
                trigger_matches.append((strand, pos, pos+diag))
                trigger_diagonals = np.append(trigger_diagonals, diag)
                # Only add one match per diagonal at maximum

print("Matches that trigger gapped alignment:")
genome search


Matches that trigger gapped alignment:
[(1, 42, 1563462)]

From hundreds of initial matches, only a single one remains in this case. The diagonal of this match can be seen in the figure: It is the almost continuous line on the right side.

For the gapped alignment we use align_banded(), which reduces the alignment search space to a narrow diagonal band.


alignments = []
matrix = align.SubstitutionMatrix.std_nucleotide_matrix()
for strand, m1_pos, genome_pos in trigger_matches:
    genome = genomic_seqs[strand]
    diagonal = genome_pos - m1_pos
    alignment = align.align_banded(
        m1_sequence, genome, matrix,
        band=(diagonal - BAND_WIDTH, diagonal + BAND_WIDTH), max_number=1
    alignments.append((strand, alignment))

strand, best_alignment = max(
    alignments, key=lambda strand_alignment: alignment[1].score

For visualization purposes we have to apply a renumbering function for the genomic sequence, since the indices in the alignment trace refer to the reverse complement sequence, but we want the numbers to refer to the original genomic sequence.

# Reverse sequence numbering for second sequence (genome) in alignment
number_funcs = [None,   lambda x: len(best_alignment.sequences[1]) - x]
# Visualize alignment, use custom color
fig = plt.figure(figsize=(8.0, 4.0))
ax = fig.add_subplot(111)
    ax, best_alignment, matrix=matrix,
    labels=["E. coli M1 coding gene", "S. enterica genome"], show_numbers=True,
    number_functions=number_funcs, show_line_position=True,
# sphinx_gallery_thumbnail_number = 2
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The results show, that E. coli and S. enterica M1 are almost identical.

Finally, we predict and plot the secondary structure of the M1 RNA with help from ViennaRNA and highlight mismatch position between E. coli and S. enterica M1.

app = viennarna.RNAfoldApp(m1_sequence)
base_pairs = app.get_base_pairs()

app = viennarna.RNAplotApp(base_pairs=base_pairs, length=len(m1_sequence))
plot_coord = app.get_coordinates()

codes = align.get_codes(best_alignment)
m1_no_gap_codes = codes[codes[:, 0] != -1]
identities = m1_no_gap_codes[0] == m1_no_gap_codes[1]

fig = plt.figure(figsize=(8.0, 8.0))
ax = fig.add_subplot(111)
# Plot base connections
ax.plot(*plot_coord.T, color="black", linewidth=1, zorder=1)
# Plot base pairings
    [(plot_coord[i], plot_coord[j]) for i, j in base_pairs],
    color="silver", linewidth=1, zorder=1
# Plot base markers
    s = 12,
    # Render markers over lines
    zorder = 2,
    # Display base marker color based on the identity in the alignment
    color = ["forestgreen" if identity else "firebrick"
             for identity in identities]
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