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Wiki for BRB-SeqTools. Like Galaxy, BRB-SeqTools is not a method.

Windows 10 Bash shell

Gene counting and variant call (both Samtools and GATK) works fine. For variant annotation, see the comment #2 below.

  1. Need to install Xming. Before calling ./SeqTools from the Bash shell, run export DISPLAY=:0 first.
    • If we like to start Xming automatically when Windows boots, follow the instruction How to Make a Program Run at Startup on Any Computer.
    • Press Windows + R (or 'run' in the search box) and click the Enter key. Type “shell:startup” into the Run dialog, and press Enter. Now drag-and-drop the Xming shortcut from the “All Apps” list in the Start menu directly into this folder. Reboot Windows to make this change to work. It also helps to download the BRB-SeqTools icon (read below).
  2. Automatic setup:
    • Need to install unzip utility sudo apt-get install unzip.
    • Install fontconfig library sudo apt-get install libfontconfig1-dev.
    • New gnome-terminal windows (use apt-get install) cannot be opened from Bash shell. This affect Automatic setup tools in Tools manager and profile manager.
    • Java JDK from ppa:webup8team does not work. We need to download/install it <jdk-8u112-linux-x64.tar.gz> from Oracle website. To make the installation silently, we need to add two lines to the installation script. See here for apt-get approach and here for tarball approach.
    • An issue in pandoc: timer-create function not implemented. In other words, if we run variant annotation, we will get a bug report message. The main output files (1 vcf and 2 texts files) are generated but the pdf/html files cannot be created.
  3. It is useful to create a Windows icon on the Windows desktop for quick access to BRB-SeqTools program. The BRB-SeqTools icon <BRB-SeqTools.lnk> can be found on Github. A modified automatic setup script <> can be also found there.

Windows10 seqtools OK.png Win10 seqtools icon.png


A subset of GSE48215 (about 1/10 of the original FASTQ files) created to run the benchmark.

mkdir GSE48215_22000000
head -n 22000000 GSE48215/SRR925751_1.fastq  > GSE48215_22000000/SRR925751_1.fastq
head -n 22000000 GSE48215/SRR925751_2.fastq  > GSE48215_22000000/SRR925751_2.fastq

The reference genome file is based on UCSC_hg19_chr1 as part of the DNA-Seq sample data.

time (min)
Ubuntu 14.04 host 11
Ubuntu 16.04 vm 26
Windows 10 vm 32

Both virtual machines have 6 cores CPU and 16GB memory. For this dataset, about 8GB memory is enough. VirtualBox 5.0.30 was used.

Software List

See Tools Manager -> Automatic setup. A developer version of the shell script is available on Github. Note: GATK and annovar will not be installed automatically due to the license issue.

Program Major language Version Linux OS Mac OS Repository Monitor
bowtie2 C++ 2.2.6 src & binary zip src & binary zip Github & SourceForge c-d
tophat C++ 2.1.0 Linux binary tar.gz Mac binary tar.gz c-d
bwa C 0.7.12 src src Github cron job
star C++ 2.5.1b one binary tar.gz one binary tar.gz Github cron job
picard Java 1.141 Github cron job
samtools C 1.3 src src Github c-d
GATK* Java 3.6 c-d
bcftools C 1.3 src src Github c-d
htslib C 1.3 src src Github c-d
annovar* Perl 2016Feb01 c-d
sratoolkit Shell 2.7.0 Linux binary tar.gz Mac binary tar.gz & Github c-d
fastqc Java 0.11.5 dmg ??
fastx C 0.0.13 Linux binary tar.bz2 Mac binary tar.bz2 ??
snpeff Java 4_2 SourceForge & Github c-d
htseq Python 0.6.1p1 src src c-d
R R 3.3.x apt-get app c-d
pandoc Haskell deb pkg Github ??
latex Ubuntu repository apt-get pkg Ubuntu/ ??
lftp Ubuntu repository apt-get homebrew Ubuntu/Rudix ??
avfs Ubuntu repository apt-get src Ubuntu/SourceForge ??
Java (jdk) 1.8.0 (8u112) tar.gz dmg ??
subread C 1.5.2 src & binary src & binary SourceForge c-d
  • c-d:
  • cron job: shell script to check daily
  • The file name for GATK is GenomeAnalysisTK-3.7.tar.bz2 (~13 MB)
  • The file name for ANNOVAR is annovar.latest.tar.gz (~113 MB)

Download failure

Several software repositories (eg Github, not sourceforge) are hosted by Amazon S3. So be ware of possible Amazon AWS outage.

Hard Disk Space

  • Tools Manager: Automatic setup will download 1.2GB data and take about 3GB disk space. Automatic setup will also download tools required for automatic method in Reference Genome Profile Manager (avfs) and cosmic download in variant annotator (lftp).
  • Reference Genome Profile Manager: All human genomes need to download 20GB data except hg19 that will download 40GB data.
  • Variant Annotation: Each of snpEff and ANNOVAR will download 14GB database for dbNSFP. Total is 28GB for either GRCh37/hg19 or GRCh38/hg38. annovar/humandb folder will have its own dbnsfp file eg hg38_dbnsfp*.txt.

Virtual machine

For a 100GB dynamic allocated space VM,

space in GB total used avail vdi ova
After Ubuntu installation 89 3.7 76 4.5 1.7
After running Automatic setup (Tools Manager) 89 6.9 72 8.4 4.2
After running the RNS-Seq sample data 89
After running the DNS-Seq sample data 89
After running snpEff on the DNS-Seq sample data 89

RAM requirement

  • Index step in STAR requires more than 30GB memory (30GB is not enough as we tested on macOS) for human genome. If there is a memory problem, SeqTools will abort and generate a BugReport.tar.gz file.

samples.txt file

Input: fastq

Assume we want to run GATK for variant call.

echo -e 'LibraryName\tLibraryLayout\tfastq1\tfastq2\tReadGroup\tSequencerManufacturer
Sample1\tPAIRED\tSample1_read1.fq\tSample1_read2.fq\t1\tillumina' > samples.txt

Input: bam

Assume we want to run GATK for variant call.

echo -e 'LibraryName\tfastq1\tReadGroup\tSequencerManufacturer
Sample1\tSample1.bam\t1\tillumina' > samples.txt

Put common paths in $PATH; source command

For convenience, we can create a file to store the common directories

$ cat ~/bin/setpath 
export PATH=/opt/SeqTools/bin/samtools-1.4:$PATH
export PATH=/opt/SeqTools/bin/gatk-3.8:$PATH
export PATH=/opt/SeqTools/bin/picard-tools-2.1.1/:$PATH
export PATH=/opt/SeqTools/bin/samtools-1.4/htslib-1.4/:$PATH

To use this file, we just need to run source ~/bin/setpath. Dada!! We can use samtools, bgzip, tabix, ... without specifying their full paths.


Predefined Datasets Locations

  • Demo data: testdata (parent directory is determined by the user)
  • Reference genome from the automatic method: BRB_SeqTools_autosetup_reference_genome_files on v1.0 and RefGenProfiles on v1.2 (parent directory is determined by the user)
  • Database files from somatic mutation annotator tool: ~/variantAnnoDatabase
$ find .
./dbNSFP/dbNSFP3.2a_hg19.txt.gz     # 13 GB
./dbNSFP/dbNSFP3.2a_hg38_sorted.txt.gz   # 13 GB

Note that the dbNSFP in this directory was used by SNPEFF only. ANNOVAR has its own dbnsfp files.


For GATK 3.8, the (only) binary file is GenomeAnalysisTK.jar. See

For GATK (released 1/9/2018), the binary files are


So the script in BRB-SeqTools won't work with GATK release.

Starting with version 4.0, GATK contains a copy of the Picard toolkit.

The GATK in Biowulf is located in /usr/local/apps/GATK.

A practical introduction to GATK 4 on Biowulf (NIH HPC)


The result depends on several factors.

Pay attention to the ANNOVAR version that was used. When I use the version 2017-07-16 to run <>, I got a message

WARNING: you may have used wrong -buildver, or specified incorrect reference allele, or used outdated mRNA FASTA file!
ERROR running system command: < -geneanno -buildver hg38 -dbtype knownGene .....

To check your current ANNOVAR version, type

See FAQ 41 on How to check if new version of ANNOVAR is available?

Reference sequencing and annotation files from iGenomes

Note that the file size may change as the file is updated.

size (bytes) md5sum
Ensembl GRCh37


19971514224 3077c2b593615e418160ae878009b4b5


15848139211 61d263698f0283075f63b1514a16045d
UCSC hg19


45468620403 b64a925c6b7cc0391b3ee188ecec4e48
UCSC hg38


16006984068 97d98dcb25fb041be2f2139322a84cdb

Note that

  • The download speed is about 3MB/s at home and 7.8~11.4MB/s at office (shown at the end of stdout using wget).
  • The tarball has a file structure that starts at 'Mus-musculus' or 'Homo_sapiens' folder name (no 'igenomes').




Running BWA-MEM & GATK from xenograft data.

Note: compress a 14G fq to 4.2G fq.gz took 30 minutes.

Step Output file Time (h:m), Size [Data 1] Time, Size [Data 2]
Source in fq
Source in fq.gz
bwa mem bwa.bam 0:30, 11G 1:00, 19G
pdx specific (sort by pos)
pdx specific (remove mouse primary)
pdx specific (remove mouse secondary)
pdx specific (sort by names)
0:10, 9.1G
0:10, 9.1G
0:15, 35G
0:18, 11G
0:16, 11G
0:12, 9.8G
0:24, 77G
0:30, 18G
samtools fixmate accepted_hits.bam 0:40, 11G 1:15, 18G
samtools sort (sort by pos) sorted.bam 0:10, 9.1G 0:15, 9.8G
Picard MarkDuplicates bad.bam 1:00, 9.3G 1:35, 11G
Picard AddOrReplaceReadGroups rg_added_sorted.bam 0:30, 9.3G 0:40, 11G
Picard ReorderSam split.bam 0:30, 9.3G 0:50, 11G
GATK RealignerTargetCreator BRB-SeqTools_indels_only.intervals
GATK IndelRealigner
(need known SNPs for '-targetIntervals')
realigned_reads.bam 0:35, 9.2G 1:00, 11G
GATK BaseRecalibrator (need known SNPs)
GATK PrintReads
0:30, 998K
2:00, 12G
1:00, 215K
5:50, 24G
GATK HaplotypeCaller vcf 2:30, 3.6M 2:50, 58M
Total 9:46, 28G (src) + 192G (lib) 17:43, 16G (src) + 226G (lib)


Tutorial videos

Directory name specification in command line

Use a full path instead of "~/" to avoid a problem of identifying vcf files.

Cosmic download failure

The command line to download the <CosmicCodingMuts.vcf.gz> file (~50 MB) on macOS is

$ /usr/local/bin/lftp sftp://EMAIL:[email protected]:22  \
  -e "set sftp:auto-confirm yes; get /cosmic/grch38/cosmic/v78/VCF/CosmicCodingMuts.vcf.gz; bye"

sftp:auto-confirm: no such variable. Use `set -a' to look at all variables.
get: /cosmic/grch38/cosmic/v78/VCF/CosmicCodingMuts.vcf.gz: Fatal error: Host key verification failed

To further investigate the problem.

$ sftp EMAIL:[email protected]:22 
The ECDSA host key for has changed,
and the key for the corresponding IP address
is unknown. This could either mean that
DNS SPOOFING is happening or the IP address for the host
and its host key have changed at the same time.
Someone could be eavesdropping on you right now (man-in-the-middle attack)!
It is also possible that a host key has just been changed.
The fingerprint for the ECDSA key sent by the remote host is
Please contact your system administrator.
Add correct host key in /Users/USERNAME/.ssh/known_hosts to get rid of this message.
Offending ECDSA key in /Users/USERNAME/.ssh/known_hosts:8
ECDSA host key for has changed and you have requested strict checking.
Host key verification failed.
Connection closed
$ grep sanger ~/.ssh/known_hosts, ecdsa-sha2-nistp256 AAAAE2VjZHNhLXNoYTItbmlzdHAyNTYAAAAIbmlzdHAyNTYAAABBBNlj3i1Fccf8QVjXW9iwzNKQ3p4RKl6RL+RdVsFHWlgsg6HvLo7Y0te7oXx2YR8+06vRyW0eePTcJRiFAIeNmcU=

Use ssh-keygen -R hostname to delete the offending host key from the <known_hosts>.

For the sftp:auto-confirm: no such variable message see; need to upgrade lftp program to version 4.6.2.

Other software

Bioinformatics Recipes. It is like GEO2R.

  • The user interface ("Execute" on LHS menu) allows non-programmers to run analysis with required inputs
  • It can generate shell script ("Code" on LHS menu) to run locally (it assumes all required programs are in $PATH).

This tool teaches some tools; e.g. esearch and efetch for downloading data from NCBI PRJNA601630.