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CLfinder-OrthNet, a pipeline to encode orthologs from multiple genomes and their evolutionary history into networks (OrthNets) based on co-linearity between them. OrthNets enable detection of all orthologous gene groups that share the same evolutionary history, using a search based on network topology
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A pipeline to detect co-linearity in gene orders among multiple closely-related genomes (CLfinder) and build networks of orthologs, or OrthNets, connecting ortholog nodes with co-linearity information (co-linear, transposed, or unable to determine) among them as edge properties (ONfinder).

  • Ideally and in most cases, each OrthNet consists of orthologs derived from a single ancestral locus, including those duplicated specifically in a subset of genomes.
  • In addition to visualize the evolutionary context/history of each ortholog group, users can search ortholog groups (as OrthNets) based on an evolutionary history pattern/context they represent.
  • For example, users can retrieve all OrthNets (i.e. ortholog groups) that have underwent:
    • tandem duplication events unique to a genome or a subset of genomes, either mono-, para-, or polyphyletic
    • orthologs deleted, duplicated, or transposed uniquely in a genome or a subset of genomes,
    • orthologs transposed and duplicated uniquely in a genome or a subset of genomes, etc.
  • CLfinder and ONfinder (OrthNet finder) are two separable modules. Users can use only the CLfinder module to quickly obtain co-linearity information and a summary matrix of the pairwise comparisons for multiple genomes. The ONfinder module is optimized for creating OrthNets using inputs from CLfinder, but also can accept co-linearity information from other programs.

Jump to: Before starting; Preparing input files; Running CLfinder; Running ONfinder; Searching OrthNets; Annotating OrthNets; Notes; How to cite;


  • 2018-12-13 CLfinder-OrthNet will be presented at Plant&Animal Genomes 2019 (Jan. 12-16, 2019 at San Diego, CA) in the following three workshops: Systems Genomics, N. G. Genome Annotation & Analysis, and Digital Tools & Resources (details and abstracts)
  • 2018-10-31 The first CLfinder-OrthNet paper is published in DNA Research and now online.


  • 2019-06-25 Minor fixes on temporary file name formats; added more options to to help the preparation of input#1.
  • 2018-12-25 Added (previously and; minor bug fixes and improvements
  • 2018-06-05 Added options to use MMseqs2 to generate inputs #2 and #3. MMseqs2 is much faster than orthoMCL or BLASTP and also generate one HSP (High-scoring Segment Pair) per each sequence comparison.

Upcoming changes

  • generates a table of node properties that can be imported to Cytoscape, to facilitate visualization of OrthNet
  • Wrapper scripts for the CLfinder and ONfinder modules
  • Tutorial and test dataset based on MMSeqs2
  • Iterative MCL (testing)
  • R-OrthNet : OrthNet with edges representing presence or absence of conservations in regulatory features between nodes

Before starting

Prerequisites - programs

  • python 2.7
  • mcl - other clustering options will be added in future updates.
  • MMseqs2 - to generate input #2 and #3 (see below for alternatives)
  • I assume users are familiar with basic linux commands.
  • Optional
    • gffread - if you start with a .gff file to generate input #1
    • orthoMCL - an alternative to generate input #2
    • blast+ - an alternative to generate input #3 and annotation
    • Cytoscape - to visualize and print OrthNets

Prerequisites -genome data

  • genome annotation of "representative" gene models (.gff, .gff3, or .gtf)
  • representative gene model sequences for all loci (.fasta)


Copy all python scripts to a folder, add the folder to $PATH, and made them executable:

export PATH=<folder>:$PATH # in bash, add this to ~/.bashrc
chmod 755 <folder>/*.py

Preparing input files

CLfinder-OrthNet accept three inputs: 1. gene model coordinates (genome annotation), 2. within-species paralog groups, and 3. between species "best-hit" pairs for all pair of genomes

ProjectID and list of genomes

ProjectID.list includes all GenomeIDs that you want to compare, one per line. I recommend GenomeIDs to be simple (2~5 alphanumeric) and ProjectID to be unique by adding date or time-stamp. For example, below, 180101_crucifers will be the ProjectID to compare six crucifer genomes included in the first CLfinder-OrthNet article (

echo 'Aly Ath Cru Esa Sir Spa' | tr ' ' '\n' > 180101_Crucifers.list

Input #1: gene model coordinates (genome annotation)

For each genome, coordinates of representative gene models are parsed from genome annotations in .gtf format. The parsed file will have strand, coordinates, number of exons, and length of the mRNA and CDS (ORF), one gene model per line.

  1. If genome annotation is in .gff or .gff3 format, convert it to .gtf:

    gffread input.gff -T -o output.gtf
  2. Parse the .gtf file into a .gtfParsed.txt file. Name the output file as "GenomeID.gtfParsed.txt". Repeat for all GenomeIDs: -pr input.gtf GenomeID.gtfParsed.txt > GenomeID.gtfParsed.log

    Important! Genomes should contain one representative gene/transcript model per each locus. See Note 1

Input #2: within-species paralog groups (PGs)

A tab-delimited text file with GeneID and paralog group ID (PG), one gene per line for each genome:

Gene1	PGxxxx
Gene2	PGxxxy
Gene3	PGxxxz

Input #2 can be prepared by various methods. Below are two example options:

method #1 Cluster all representative protein sequences using MMseqs2 for each genome and get "in-paralog" groups. Convert the .tsv output to input #2. Assuming all representative peptide sequences for each genome is GenomeID.pep.rep.fa:

mkdir tmp # temporary folder for MMseqs2 runs
mmseqs createdb GenomeID.pep.rep GenomeID_DB
mmseqs createindex GenomeID_DB tmp
mmseqs cluster GenomeID_DB GenomeID_c tmp --max-seqs 50000 -c 0.5
mmseqs createtsv GenomeID_DB GenomeID_DB GenomeID_c GenomeID_c.tsv -H GenomeID_c.tsv GenomeID.PG

To run MMseqs2 clustering for all genomes in ProjectID.list :

Click to expand
mkdir tmp # temporary folder for MMseqs2 runs
while read g; do 
mmseqs createdb ${g}.pep.rep ${g}_DB
mmseqs createindex ${g}_DB tmp
mmseqs cluster ${g}_DB ${g}_c tmp --max-seqs 50000 -c 0.5
mmseqs createtsv ${g}_DB ${g}_DB ${g}_c ${g}_c.tsv -H ${g}_c.tsv ${g}.PG
done < ProjectID.list

Proceed to the next step with GenomeID.PG (input #2).

method #2 (originally the default method) If orthoMCL is available, you can run it for each genome and get "in-paralog" groups. Convert the orthoMCL output (mclOutput_GenomeID.txt) to input #2: -rH mclOutput_GenomeID.txt PG > GenomeID.PG

if converting multiple orthoMCL output files for genomes in ProjectID.list:

while read g; do mclOutput_${g}.txt PG -rH > ${g}.PG; done < ProjectID.list

Proceed to the next step with GenomeID.PG (input #2).

Input #3: between-species best-hit pairs (BHPairs)

A tab-delimited text file with the GeneID of the query gene and its 'best-hit' or best-hit candidate GeneID in the target genome, one pair per line, for all possible pairs of genomes in ProjectID.list. Below, I describe two methods using BLASTN (default) and MMseqs2 (alternative):

method #1 For all GenomeIDs in ProjectID.list, create a blast database for the representative CDS sequences in GenomeID.cds.rep.fa:

makeblastdb -in GenomeID.cds.rep.fa -dbtype nucl

To process multiple genomes listed in ProjectID.list:

while read g; do makeblastdb -in ${g}.cds.rep.fa -dbtype nucl; done < ProjectID.list

Create blast commands for all possible pair of genomes in ProjectID.list. For blastn: ProjectID.list -n "-task blastn -evalue 1e-5 -max_target_seqs 10 -outfmt '6 std qlen slen'" >

Check -h for detailed options to designate folders for CDS sequences or blastn output files, as well as options to use blastp or MMseqs2 on deduced peptide sequences instead.

Once blast commands ( were created, users will want to run it in the background (e.g. using the linux screen command) and multiplex if possible, depending on the computational resource. Users can add -num_threads option to the string given with -n option in the example above.

method #2 Users can use peptide sequences deduced from representative gene models (GenomeID.pep.rep.fa) to generate input #3 using MMseqs2. First create and index DB for all genomes listed in ProjectID.list (if MMseqs2 was used for the input #2, this step must have been already done):

Click to expand
mkdir tmp # temporary folder for MMseqs2 runs
while read g; do 
mmseqs createdb ${g}.pep.rep ${g}_DB
mmseqs createindex ${g}_DB tmp
done < ProjectID.list
And create MMseqs2 commands for all pairwise genomes using ` -M`: ProjectID -M -n "--max-seqs 10" > ProjectID_pairwiseMMseqs2.bash

Run the MMseqs2 command ( as a background process (e.g. using the linux screen command), etc.

After running all pairwise comparison you will have output files named as out__GenomeID1__vs__GenomeID2.txt, for all pairs with GenomeID1 != GenomeID2. Convert these blastn (or MMseqs2) results to input #3:

for f in out__*.txt; do f2=${f##*out__}; cut -f1,2 $f | uniq > BestHits__${f2%%.txt}.list; done
mkdir ./BHPairs; mv BestHits__*.list ./BHPairs

This will generate input #3 for all genome pairs as BestHits__GenomeID1_vs_GenomeID2.list in the folder ./BHPairs. As long as the file names and formats are correct, input #3 can be created by other methods to detect similar sequences, such as blastp.

  • Users can add filters to BHPairs at this step, to remove BHPairs with too low HSP_cov, HSP_len, and/or HSP_idn (see consolidate_blast_HSPs -h). See Note 2

Running CLfinder

At this point, the following should be ready:

  • List of GenomeIDs in ProjectID.list
  • Input #1 as GenomeID.gtfParsed.txt for all GenomeIDs in ProjectID.list
  • Input #2 as GenomeID.PG for all GenomeIDs in ProjectID.list
  • Input #3 for all pairs of genomes, as BestHits__GenomeID1_vs_GenomeID2.list in the folder ./BHPairs

Now CLfinder module is ready to run:

  1. Combine Input #1 (GenomeID.gtfParsed.txt) and Input #2 (GenomeID.PG) and add tandem duplication information: GenomeID.gtfParsed.txt 1 1 GenomeID.PG GenomeID.gtfParsed.PG.txt GenomeID.gtfParsed.PG.txt GenomeID 4 GenomeID.gtfParsed.TD.txt

    To process all genomes listed in ProjectID.list:

    Click to expand
    while read g; do ${g}.gtfParsed.rep.txt 1 1 ${g}.PG ${g}.gtfParsed.PG.txt ${g}.gtfParsed.PG.txt $g 4 ${g}.gtfParsed.TD.txt
    done < ProjectID.list
    This will identify all paralogs in the same paralog group and within 4 loci (min_TD_loci) as tandem duplicated (_td_), and report the number of _td_ events and genes in those events as _ProjectID_TD.log_. Users can modify the *min_TD_loci* parameter as needed. _GenomeID.gtfParsed.TD.txt_ files now include columns for _td_ events as well as numerical _LocusIDs_ for each genome.
  2. Run CLfinder: ProjectID -nr -T .gtfParsed.TD.txt -b ./BHPairs -W 20 -N 3 -G 20 -o ./ProjectID_out

    This will run CLfinder for each GenomeID, comparing it to all other genomes, and report (with -r option) numbers of co-linear, lineage-specific, and transposed best-hit pairs, shared td events, etc. Users can modify the window_size (-W), num_loci_trshld (-N), and gap_loci_trshld (-G) as needed. With -n option, it also create an output ProjectID.4OrthNet.input which can be used for updating best-hit pairs (next section) or building OrhNets. See -h for details on options and parameters.

  3. Update best-hit pairs: ProjectID ./ProjectID_out/ProjectID.4OrthNet.input -b BHPairs -o BHPairs.1

    CLfinder can search for an alternative best-hit among many best-hit candidates with less similarity scores, if such alternative best-hit can achieve a reciprocal best-hit pairs. This process will update best-hit pairs to prefer reciprocal relationship. ProjectID -unrp -T .gtfParsed.TD.txt -b BHPairs.1 -o ProjectID_out.1 -W 20 -N 3 -G 20

    Re-run CLfinder based on the updated best-hit pairs (-u option). With -p option, CLfinder also print reciprocal best-hit pairs and co-linearity between them for all pairs of genomes, which can be useful for determining synonymous (Ks) or four degenerated site (4d) substitution rates between pairs (Note 3).

  4. Creating a summary report for all pairwise CLfinder analyses: ProjectID CLfinder_summary.txt -p ProjectID_out.1

    This script looks into a CLfinder output folder and create a summary matrix for all query-target genome pairs, reporting number of co-linear (cl), lineage-specific (ls), transposed (tr), and not determined (nd) due to too fragmented genome scaffold assembly. See -h for details.

Running ONfinder

The ONfinder (OrthNet finder) module accept a tab-delimited text file with two genes, i.e., best-hit pairs from different genomes or tandem duplicated paralogs from the same genome, and their co-linearity relationship. CLfinder generates such a file (ProjectID.4OrthNet.input), as described above. As long as formatted correctly, the ONfinder modeule can accept co-linearity information from other pipeline or sources. See -h for the required input file format.

  1. Create initial hard clusters:

    cp ProjectID_out.1/ProjectID.4OrthNet.input ./ ProjectID -sd -o ./

    This step connect all best-hit pairs or tandem duplicated paralogs to create initial clusters.

    With -d option, tandem duplicated paralogs will be included in OrthNets. Note that the script expects GenomeID.gtfParsed.TD.txt files in the ./ folder when run with -d option. With -s option, it also identifies clusters that need to be further separated into sub-clusters. See -h for details on options and parameters.

  2. Markov clustering (mcl) of hard clusters:

    mkdir ./mcl ProjectID -o mcl -sc -w weights4mcl.list -I 1.2

    Since this process may create a large number of temporary files, I suggest to create a separate working folder (./mcl). The weights4mcl.list includes edge weights users can assign to each type of edges. Users can also select the inflation rate for mcl with -I option. See -h for details.

    The output filename includes edge weight information. If default values were used, the output file will be ProjectID_TD1.5_rC1.2_rNC0.5_uC0.6_uNC0.25_I1.2_mclOut.PC.txt.

  3. Update best-hit pairs and OrthNets after mcl: ProjectID mcl/ProjectID_TD1.5_rC1.2_rNC0.5_uC0.6_uNC0.25_I1.2_mclOut.PC.txt -b BHPairs.1 -o1 BHPairs.2 -o2 ProjectID_out.2 -u -T .gtfParsed.TD.txt -W 20 -N 3 -G 20 ./ProjectID_out.2/ProjectID.clstrd.afterMCL.edges

    This process again searches for alternative best-hit pairs to maximize pairing within each OrthNet after the mcl clustering. Then, reformat the .edges file to a .sif file to finalize OrthNets:

    The resulting ProjectID.clstrd.afterMCL.edges.sif file includes all OrthNets identified by the OrthNet module in .sif format for Cytoscape. However, I advise not trying to open the entire OrthNets at once in Cytoscape, since the file is expected to be quite large. See the next section and find how to search and extract subsets of OrthNets using search by GeneID, OrthNetID, or evolutionary context search.

  4. Users may want to re-create the CLfinder summary report at this point: ProjectID CLfinder_summary.afterOrthNet.txt -p ProjectID_out.2

Searching OrthNets

OrthNets are stored as .sif (simple interaction file) format, i.e., tab-delimited text with NodeID1, CLtype, NodeID2, and OrthNetID. NodeIDs are formatted as 'GenomeID|GeneID'. Users can use simple linux grep commands to retrieve OrthNets using OrthNetIDs.

For example, to find out OrthNetID of the OrthNet to which a gene of interest belongs:

grep 'GeneID' ProjectID.clstrd.afterMCL.edges.sif

To retrieve an OrthNet using OrthNetID, or group of OrthNets with OrthNetIDs listed in OrthNetID.list, one per line:

grep -P "\tOrthNetID$" ProjectID.clstrd.afterMCL.edges.sif > ProjectID.OrthNetID.sif
while read oid ; do 
grep -P "\t${oid}$" ProjectID.clstrd.afterMCL.edges.sif > ProjectID.${oid}.sif
done < OrthNetID.list

Finally, users can search OrthNets for nodes representing a specific evolutionary context (see examples in the Synopsis). For this, two options are currently available:

  • uses CLfinder results files (CL files) created by the item 4 of the previous section and regular expression patterns created by users as the query. This method searches all OrthNets containing nodes with particular edge properties chracteristic to a lineage(s)-specific evolutionary event. See search_OrthNet_pattern -h for details.
  • (formerly clusters all OrthNets showing exactly the same topology (and the same edge properties) and prints all clusters in the order of the most to least frequent topologies. See -h for details.
  • searches OrthNets and OrthNet topologies with flexible orthologue copy number criteria queries, to detect lineage(s)-specific copy number variations (CNVs). This script can detect lineage(s)-specific CNVs among orthologous gene groups or clusters generated by other tools (e.g. OrthoFinder or OrthoMCL) once the results were parsed with See -h and -h (and also the examples in the Tutorial to be updated before 2019 January) for details.

Annotating OrthNets (optional)

This step combines the tabulated results of a CLfinder-OrthNet run, to a single table. This table includes, in addition to CLfinder results, the following information for each gene locus:

  • a functional annotation (i.e. the best blast-hit from a model species, as well as the blast HSP coverage and identity),
  • the OrthNet ID and a one-line summary of the properties of all edges connecting the gene locus,
  • the median (md) and standard deviation (sd) of CDS (ORF) lengths for the gene and all of its best-hits. This is to determine whether the gene locus contains a truncated or complete ORF.

See the Supplementry Dataset S1 of the first CLfinder-OrthNet manuscript for an example.

Separately, this step generate a summary including the following information for each OrthNet:

  • number of nodes in each species, counting either all or nodes with complete ORFs only,
  • top three most prevalent functional annotations among OrthNet nodes,
  • the average (av), md, and sd of ORF sizes of either all nodes or nodes with complete ORFs.
  1. Prepare the anotation file:

    This step requires a BLASTN or BLASTP output generated by local blast+ with -outfmt '6 std qlen slen stitle' option, comparing either CDS or protein sequences for all loci as the query, to sequences from a functionally-annotated reference model species (e.g., for flowering plants, users can obtain Arabidopsis thaliana reference sequences from these Cyberse links: CDS / protein).

    If GeneIDs are not unique in target genomes, we recommend query sequence names to be formatted as 'SpeciesID|GeneID' for the BLAST.

    Assuming Annotation_blast_output.txt is the blast output: -Hs Annotation_blast_output.txt temp
    cut -f 1,8,9,15 temp > Annotation_consolidated.txt
    cut -f 1,15 temp > Annotation_consolidated.short.txt

    These files are to be used later for annotating both gene loci and OrthNets.

  2. Combine CLfinder results and add annotation: First, combine all CLfinder results in the output folder of the last run. The '-O' option adds the information for ORF lengths for each locus and its best-hits. See -h for more details. ProjectID temp_output_combined -p ./ProjectID_out.2 -F .20.3.20.afterMCL.txt -O temp_output_combined 2 1 Annotation_consolidated.txt ProjectID.combined.annotated.txt e

    The ProjectID.combined.annotated.txt is the final output.

  3. Generate a summary of OrthNet node copy numbers and annotation:

    The script (see Running ONfinder item #3) generates an .mclOutput output file, which can be used for creating an annotated summary of OrthNets. See -h for more details. -Hsrx -a Annotation_consolidated.short.txt -p _internal_ ./ProjectID_out.2/ProjectID.clstrd.afterMCL.nodes.mclOutput ON

    This will create ProjectID.all.mclOutput.summary.txt, which contains counts of all nodes for each species, as well as top three representative annotations (i.e. annotations appearing most frequently among the members of the OrthNet), for each OrthNet.

  4. Count the number of nodes with complete ORFs:

    The script report the number of nodes with complete ORFs, as well as the av, md, and sd of ORF sizes of all nodes in each OrthNet. It uses the combined CLfinder output file generated in item #2 in this section as the input. ProjectID ProjectID.combined.annotated.txt -m 0

    The '-m' option defines the minimum % of the ORF length of a gene compared to the median of its best-hits. '-m 0' will count all nodes and report to ProjectID.all.nodeCounts, while '-m 70' only counts nodes with ORF size at least 70% of the median of its best-hits and report to ProjectID.cORF70.nodeCounts. See -h for more details.


1. Obtaining one representative gene model per locus

  • To detect co-linearity correctly, CLfinder needs genome coordinates of one gene model per each locus. If possible, select the gene model annotatoin file that inculdes "primary transcript" or "representative gene model/isoform".
  • -pr reports all protein-coding (-p option) gene models in the .gtf files whose genomic coordinates are overlapping. If number of such gene models are small (less than <1%), probably the genome annotation has only representative gene models.
  • If genome annotation include isoforms, select only the primary isoforms. Often isoforms are named as geneID.1, geneID.2, etc., in which case you can choose only those ending with .1 in the .gtfParsed.txt file. Once you have a list of geneIDs for primary isoform/transcripts only, -e can extract them from a .gtf file to create a new .gtf containing only primary isoform/transcript. The new .gtf file can be parsed to .gtfParsed.txt as Input #1. The CDS sequences can be extracted from the new .gtf file using gffread -x (and translated to obtain protein sequences if needed).
  • If there is no better way to select representative gene/transcript/isoform, -L will cluster all gene models that have overlapping or identical coordinates, keeping only the one with the longest ORF. Plus and minus strands will be clustered separately. If you want to cluster all genes with overlapping coordinates and select the representative for each cluster yourself, -l will print .gtfParsed.txt file with the cluster ID added as the last column without selecting a representative. See the script help ( -h) for details.
  • One can also modify the .gtf file, using in CGAT, to condense isoforms in each locus (thanks Keeley Adams for finding out this tool).
  • After obtaining the .gtfParsed.txt file, make sure that only gene models included in this file are used for generating Input #2 and #3. GeneIDs should be consistent over all three inputs.

2. Filtering 'best-hit' pairs based on HSP_cov

  • coming soon

3. Calculating substitution rates between best-hit pairs with codeml

  • coming soon


  • coming soon (before 2019 August)

How to cite

Oh & Dassanayake Landscape of gene transposition–duplication within the Brassicaceae family. DNA Res 26, 21–36 (2019). doi:10.1093/dnares/dsy035

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