Sequencing smart: De novo sequencing and assembly approaches for a non-model mammal

Graham J. Etherington, Darren Heavens, David Baker, Ashleigh Lister, Rose McNelly, Gonzalo Garcia, Bernardo Clavijo, Iain Macaulay, Wilfried Haerty, Federica Di Palma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Whilst much sequencing effort has focused on key mammalian model organisms such as mouse and human, little is known about the relationship between genome sequencing techniques for non-model mammals and genome assembly quality. This is especially relevant to non-model mammals, where the samples to be sequenced are often degraded and of low quality. A key aspect when planning a genome project is the choice of sequencing data to generate. This decision is driven by several factors, including the biological questions being asked, the quality of DNA available, and the availability of funds. Cutting-edge sequencing technologies now make it possible to achieve highly contiguous, chromosome-level genome assemblies, but rely on high-quality high molecular weight DNA. However, funding is often insufficient for many independent research groups to use these techniques. Here we use a range of different genomic technologies generated from a roadkill European polecat (Mustela putorius) to assess various assembly techniques on this low-quality sample. We evaluated different approaches for de novo assemblies and discuss their value in relation to biological analyses. Results: Generally, assemblies containing more data types achieved better scores in our ranking system. However, when accounting for misassemblies, this was not always the case for Bionano and low-coverage 10x Genomics (for scaffolding only). We also find that the extra cost associated with combining multiple data types is not necessarily associated with better genome assemblies. Conclusions: The high degree of variability between each de novo assembly method (assessed from the 7 key metrics) highlights the importance of carefully devising the sequencing strategy to be able to carry out the desired analysis. Adding more data to genome assemblies does not always result in better assemblies, so it is important to understand the nuances of genomic data integration explained here, in order to obtain cost-effective value for money when sequencing genomes.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbergiaa045
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 20 May 2020


  • assembly
  • Bionano
  • chromium
  • Illumina
  • non-model organism
  • polecat
  • sequencing
  • vertebrate

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