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Main retrieval function for GTF files of an organism of interest. By specifying the scientific name of an organism of interest the corresponding GTF file storing the annotation for the organism of interest can be downloaded and stored locally. GTF files can be retrieved from several databases.


  db = "ensembl",
  remove_annotation_outliers = FALSE,
  path = file.path("ensembl", "annotation"),
  release = NULL,
  mute_citation = FALSE



a character string specifying the database from which the genome shall be retrieved:

  • db = "refseq"

  • db = "genbank"

  • db = "ensembl"


Organism selector id, there are three options to characterize an organism:

  • by scientific name: e.g. organism = "Homo sapiens"

  • by database specific accession identifier: e.g. organism = "GCF_000001405.37" (= NCBI RefSeq identifier for Homo sapiens)

  • by taxonomic identifier from NCBI Taxonomy: e.g. organism = "9606" (= taxid of Homo sapiens)


shall outlier lines be removed from the input annotation_file? If yes, then the initial annotation_file will be overwritten and the removed outlier lines will be stored at tempdir for further exploration.


a character string specifying the location (a folder) in which the corresponding annotation file shall be stored. Default is path = file.path("_ncbi_downloads","annotation").


a numeric, the database release version of ENSEMBL (db = "ensembl"). Default is release = NULL meaning that the most recent database version is used. release = 75 would for human would give the stable GRCh37 release in ensembl. Value must be > 46, since ensembl did not structure their data if the standard format before that.


logical, default FALSE, indicating whether citation message should be muted.


File path to downloaded genome.


Internally this function loads the the overview.txt file from NCBI:



and creates a directory relative to file type, if you get fasta genomes it will be _ncbi_downloads/genomes'. In case the corresponding fasta file already exists within the '_ncbi_downloads/genomes' folder and is accessible within the workspace, no download process will be performed. For other file types the same rule applies.

See also

Other getBio: getBio(), getCDS(), getCollection(), getGenome(), getProteome(), getRNA()

Other gff: getGFFSet(), read_gff()


Hajk-Georg Drost


if (FALSE) {
# download the annotation of Homo sapiens from ensembl
# and store the corresponding genome file in 'ensembl/annotation'
getGTF(db            = "ensembl",
       organism      = "Homo sapiens",
       path          = file.path("ensembl","annotation"))

getGTF(db            = "ensembl",
       organism      = "Homo sapiens",
       path          = file.path("ensembl","annotation"),
       assembly_type = "primary_assembly")