Graph mining for next generation sequencing: Leveraging the assembly graph for biological insights

Julia Warnke-Sommer, Hesham Ali

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: The assembly of Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) reads remains a challenging task. This is especially true for the assembly of metagenomics data that originate from environmental samples potentially containing hundreds to thousands of unique species. The principle objective of current assembly tools is to assemble NGS reads into contiguous stretches of sequence called contigs while maximizing for both accuracy and contig length. The end goal of this process is to produce longer contigs with the major focus being on assembly only. Sequence read assembly is an aggregative process, during which read overlap relationship information is lost as reads are merged into longer sequences or contigs. The assembly graph is information rich and capable of capturing the genomic architecture of an input read data set. We have developed a novel hybrid graph in which nodes represent sequence regions at different levels of granularity. This model, utilized in the assembly and analysis pipeline Focus, presents a concise yet feature rich view of a given input data set, allowing for the extraction of biologically relevant graph structures for graph mining purposes. Results: Focus was used to create hybrid graphs to model metagenomics data sets obtained from the gut microbiomes of five individuals with Crohn's disease and eight healthy individuals. Repetitive and mobile genetic elements are found to be associated with hybrid graph structure. Using graph mining techniques, a comparative study of the Crohn's disease and healthy data sets was conducted with focus on antibiotics resistance genes associated with transposase genes. Results demonstrated significant differences in the phylogenetic distribution of categories of antibiotics resistance genes in the healthy and diseased patients. Focus was also evaluated as a pure assembly tool and produced excellent results when compared against the Meta-velvet, Omega, and UD-IDBA assemblers. Conclusions: Mining the hybrid graph can reveal biological phenomena captured by its structure. We demonstrate the advantages of considering assembly graphs as data-mining support in addition to their role as frameworks for assembly.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number340
JournalBMC genomics
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 6 2016


  • Crohn's disease
  • Graph mining
  • Metagenomics
  • Next generation sequence assembly

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Genetics


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