Skip to content
A snakemake-based pipeline for assembling and polishing long genomes from long nanopore reads
Python Perl R Shell
Branch: master
Clone or download


A snakemake-based pipeline for assembling and polishing long genomes from long nanopore reads

Reticulatus was developed in part to manage the execution of long-read mock community experiments at the Loman Lab. It turns out that it's quite good, so I've generalised it for any long-read nanopore experiments, so you too can enjoy highly-contiguous, blisteringly fast, cutting-edge assembly and polishing too. Reticulatus was designed for assembly of whole-genomes from metagenomic data, but we have tried it on the odd isolate too. Reticulatus is not a 16S metataxonomics analysis pipeline.

Reticulatus is not an assembler or polisher, but a well stacked set of bioinformatics blocks. Reticulatus tries to codify what we at the Loman Lab think is the current best-practice for nanopore bioinformatics into a (hopefully) easy-to-use pipeline, taking advantage of all the goodness of Snakemake while adding a few features; including:

  • a text-based read config that allows automated simple read pre-processing (deduplication, subsampling, merging)
  • a text-based run config that provides a trivial way to define assembly and polishing strategies
  • automatic generation of assembly bandage-art
  • very fast GPU-accelerated polishing (racon, medaka)
  • automated reporting of coverage and identity for contigs, for a set of references

As an attempted embodiment of best practice, Reticulatus is under development all of the time. Feel free to open an issue if it looks broken or send a pull request if it could work better.

Just so you know, the development of Reticulatus has:

How to drive this thing

(0) Clone the repository where you want the magic to happen

git clone; cd reticulatus;

(1) Setup the environment

conda env create --name reticulatus --file environments/base.yaml
conda activate reticulatus
cp Snakefile-base Snakefile

You will almost certaintly want the Snakefile-base rule set for the time being. Run Snakefile-ref with an appropriate ref.cfg to replicate our mock community benchmarking pipeline.

Note It is important that you ensure snakemake-minimal package is installed automatically using the environment specified above. Not only is this easier, but makes sure that the version installed is suitable for the overriden that ships with reticulatus.

(2) Write your configuation

cp config.yaml.example config.yaml

Replace the YAML keys as appropriate. Keys are:

Key Type Description
dehumanizer_database_root Path, optional empty directory in which to download the dehumanizer references (requires ~8.5GB), you can ignore this if you're not going to remove contigs assigned as human by kraken2
kraken2_database_root Path path to pre-built kraken2 database (i.e. the directory containing the .k2d files), or the path to a directory in which to wget a copy of our 30GB microbial database. If the database already exists, you must touch k2db.ok in this directory or bad things will happen
ktkit_database_root Path path to a directory in which to wget a copy of the NCBI taxonomy dump (500 MB, tops)
slack_token str, optional if you want to be bombarded with slack messages regarding the success and failure of your snakes, insert a suitable bot API token here
slack_channel str, optional if using a slack_token, enter the name of the channel to send messages, including the leading #
cuda boolean set to False if you do not want GPU-acceleration and True if you have the means to go very fast (i.e. you have a CUDA-compatible GPU)
medaka_env URI path to a singularity image (simg) or sandbox container to run medaka (CPU or GPU)
racon_batches int number of simultaneous batches to process on GPU
polish_threads int number of CPU threads to use for any polishing step
polish_gpu int number of GPU devices to use for any on-GPU polishing step
assembly_threads int number of CPU threads to use for any assembly step
minimap2_threads int number of CPU threads to use for any minimap2 step
sort_flags str additional parameters to pass to any samtools sort command (.e.g. to raise in-memory sort limit)

(3) Tell reticulatus about your reads

cp reads.cfg.example reads.cfg

For each sample you have, add a tab delimited line with the following fields:

Key Type Description
sample_name str a unique string that can be used to refer to this sample/readset later
ont Path* path to your long reads
i0 Path*, optional path to your single-pair short reads for this sample, otherwise you can just set to -
i1 Path*, optional path to your left paired-end short reads
i2 Path*, optional path to your right paired-end short reads
* - an arbitrary delimiter that has no purpose
feel free to add your own columns for metadata here, fill your boots, reticulatus doesn't care

* You can pre-process reads by modfying their file path as follows:

Option Syntax Description
Remove duplicates myreads.rmdup.fq.gz remove reads with a duplicate sequence header (to fix occasional duplicate reads arising from basecalling)
Subset reads myreads.subset-N.fq.gz select a random subsample of N% (with integer N between 1-99)
Merge reads /path/to/merged/reads/:myreads.fq.gz,myotherreads.fq.gz,... a root path for merged reads, followed by a colon and a comma delimited list of files to cat together, the filename will be chosen automatically and you should not be upset by this

Pre-processing can be chained, for example: myreads.rmdup.subset-25.fq.gz, will remove sequence name duplicates and take 25% of the result. You may also use this syntax to pre-process files for merging. Reticulatus will work out what needs to be done to generate the new read files, and will only need to do so once; even when you run the pipeline again in the future. The processed reads will be written to the same directory as the original reads. Once this has been done, you can delete the original reads yourself, if you'd like.

Important If you're using the GPU, you must ensure the directories that contain your reads are bound to the singularity container with -B in --singularity-args, use the same path for inside as outside to make things easier.

(4) Tell reticulatus about your plans

cp manifest.cfg.example manifest.cfg

For each pipe you want to run, add a tab delimited line with the following fields:

Key Type Description
uuid str a unique identifier, it can be anything, it will be used as a prefix for every file generated by this pipe, do not insert the . character here if you want things to work
repolish str if you wish to reuse an assembly for a different polishing scheme, enter the corresponding uuid name here, otherwise it must be set to -
refgroup str the reference set to check the assemblies and reads against, it must be a key from ref.cfg
samplename str the read set to assemble and polish, it must be a key from reads.cfg
spell str the "spell" to configure your assembly and polishing, corresponding to a named configuration in
polishpipe str a minilanguage that determines the polishing strategy. strategies are of the format <program>-<readtype>-<iterations> and are chained with the . character. e.g. racon-ont-4.medaka-ont-1.pilon-ill-1 will perform four rounds of iterative racon long-read polishing, followed by one round of medaka long-read polishing and finally one round of pilon short-read polishing. Currently the following polishers are supported: racon, medaka, pilon and dehumanizer. No polishing can be acheived by setting to -.
medakamodel str the option to pass to medaka_consensus -m, this corresponds to the model to use for medaka long-read polishing, it will depend on your ONT basecaller version
feel free to add your own columns for metadata here, fill your boots, reticulatus doesn't care
cpu int, optional override the number of available CPU cores to this limit. this is optional, but if you use the field and don't want to override a sample, you must specify -
gpu int, optional override the number of available GPU interfaces to this limit. this is optional, but if you use the field and don't want to override a sample, you must specify -

(5) Engage the pipeline

Run the pipeline with snakemake, you must specify --use-conda to ensure that any tools that require a special jail (e.g. for python2) are run far, far away from everything else. Set j to the highest number of processes that you can fill with snakes before your computer falls over.


snakemake -j <available_threads> --reason

Advanced (GPU)

Additionally you must specify --use-singularity to use containers and provide suitable --singularity-args to use the GPU and bind directories. You must bind the directory into which you have cloned reticulatus, as well as any other directories that contain your reads. Set the dir_inside and dir_outside keys to the same path to ensure the file paths inside the container, match those on the outside of the container.


'--nv -B /data/sam-projects/reticulatus-testing/:/data/sam-projects/reticulatus-testing/ -B /path/to/reads/dir/:/path/to/reads/dir/ -B /path/to/more/reads/dir/:/path/to/more/reads/dir/'

You should also set --resources gpu=N where N is the number of GPU interfaces shown in nvidia-smi. Don't forget to use the GPU, you must set the cuda key to True in config.cfg.

snakemake -j <available_threads> --reason --use-conda --use-singularity --singularity-args '--nv -B <dir_inside>:<dir_outside>' -k --restart-times 1 --resources gpu=N

Using the GPU will accelerate the following steps:

  • polish_racon: you will need a racon binary compiled with CUDA, for your system and have it appear on your $PATH before any other installed versions of racon
  • polish_medaka: you will need to specify an appropriate singularity container in config.yaml, or install medaka with GPU support yourself


Unless otherwise stated by a suitable header, the files within this repository are made available under the MIT license. If you use this pipeline, an acknowledgement in your work would be nice... Don't forget to cite Snakemake.


If reticulatus has saved your computing bill, maybe buy me a beer?

You can’t perform that action at this time.