Motivation: Next-generation sequencing technology is generating a wealth of highly similar genome sequences for many species, paving the way for a transition from single-genome to pan-genome analyses. Accordingly, genomics research is going to switch from reference-centric to pan-genomic approaches. We define the pan-genome as a comprehensive representation of multiple annotated genomes, facilitating analyses on the similarity and divergence of the constituent genomes at the nucleotide, gene and genome structure level. Current pan-genomic approaches do not thoroughly address scalability, functionality and usability.
Results: We introduce a generalized De Bruijn graph as a pan-genome representation, as well as an online algorithm to construct it. This representation is stored in a Neo4j graph database, which makes our approach scalable to large eukaryotic genomes. Besides the construction algorithm, our software package, called PanTools, currently provides functionality for annotating pan-genomes, adding sequences, grouping genes, retrieving gene sequences or genomic regions, reconstructing genomes and comparing and querying pan-genomes. We demonstrate the performance of the tool using datasets of 62 E. coli genomes, 93 yeast genomes and 19 Arabidopsis thaliana genomes.
Availability and Implementation: The Java implementation of PanTools is publicly available at http://www.bif.wur.nl.