Skip to contents

A downside of the restez approach is we are unable to then search the local database for sequences of interest as the database cannot possibly contain sufficient metadata (most notably taxonomic information) to perform as rich a search as online via NCBI. As a result we must perform the sequence discovery process independently from restez. In this tutorial we will demonstrate how to perform online searches using the rentrez package and then use the search results to look up sequences in a restez database.

To run all the code in this tutorial you will need to have already set up the rodents database, see Build a database of all rodents.

Search NCBI GenBank accession numbers

Let’s pretend we’re interested in COI sequences for a group of rodents called the Sciuromorpha. restez provides the ncbi_acc_get() function to make this easy: just provide a text string query like you would on NCBI GenBank, and it returns a character vector of accession numbers corresponding to that query. By default, it drops any version number after each accession number. This is not strictly necessary, but it makes it easier to check our results from restez later.


# 33553 - Sciuromorpha - squirrel-like things
accessions <- ncbi_acc_get(
  'txid33553[Organism:exp] AND COI [GENE] AND 100:1000[SLEN]')
#> [1] 492
#>  [1] "MZ661159" "MZ364430" "HQ966965" "GU670702" "GU670701" "GU670700" "GU670699" "GU670462" "GU670451" "GU670450"

Retrieve sequences

To fetch the sequences from the rodents database, we can use the gb_fasta_get function.

coi_sequences <- gb_fasta_get(id = accessions)
#>  chr ">LT630607.1 Sciurus sp. 1 AG-2016 mitochondrial partial COI gene for cytochrome oxidase subunit 1, specimen vou"| __truncated__
# Are all accessions in results?
all(accessions %in% names(coi_sequences))
#> [1] TRUE

Comparing to Entrez

Can we not just use rentrez to do the fetching as well? Yes, but restez can be a lot faster. NCBI limits the number of requests per user, often to as little as 100 items per request with varying time delays. Additionally for any programmatic retrieval of sequences using an online server can never be as reliable as a local copy.

# time via restez
system.time(expr = {
  coi_sequences <- gb_fasta_get(id = accessions)
#>    user  system elapsed 
#>   0.259   0.077   0.272
# time via Entrez
system.time(expr = {
  coi_sequences_p1 <- rentrez::entrez_fetch(db = 'nucleotide',
                                            id = accessions[1:100],
                                            rettype = 'fasta')
  coi_sequences_p2 <- rentrez::entrez_fetch(db = 'nucleotide',
                                            id = accessions[101:200],
                                            rettype = 'fasta')
  coi_sequences_p3 <- rentrez::entrez_fetch(db = 'nucleotide',
                                            id = accessions[201:300],
                                            rettype = 'fasta')
  coi_sequences_p4 <- rentrez::entrez_fetch(db = 'nucleotide',
                                            id = accessions[301:400],
                                            rettype = 'fasta')
  coi_sequences_p5 <- rentrez::entrez_fetch(db = 'nucleotide',
                                            id = accessions[401:456],
                                            rettype = 'fasta')
#>    user  system elapsed 
#>   0.050   0.008   5.536