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SparseAssembler2: Sparse k-mer Graph for Memory Efficient Genome Assembly

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The formal version of our work has been published in BMC Bioinformatics and can be found here: Motivation: To tackle the problem of huge memory usage associated with de Bruijn graph-based algorithms, upon which some of the most widely used de novo genome assemblers have been built, we released SparseAssembler1. SparseAssembler1 can save as much as 90% memory consumption in comparison with the state-of-art assemblers, but it requires rounds of denoising to accurately assemble genomes. In this paper, we introduce a new general model for genome assembly that uses only sparse k-mers. The new model replaces the idea of the de Bruijn graph from the beginning, and achieves similar memory efficiency and much better robustness compared with our previous SparseAssembler1. Results: We demonstrate that the decomposition of reads of all overlapping k-mers, which is used in existing de Bruijn graph genome assemblers, is overly cautious. We introduce a sparse k-mer graph structure for saving sparse k-mers, which greatly reduces memory space requirements necessary for de novo genome assembly. In contrast with the de Bruijn graph approach, we devise a simple but powerful strategy, i.e., finding links between the k-mers in the genome and traversing following the links, which can be done by saving only a few k-mers. To implement the strategy, we need to only select some k-mers that may not even be overlapping ones, and build the links between these k-mers indicated by the reads. We can traverse through this sparse k-mer graph to build the contigs, and ultimately complete the genome assembly. Since the new sparse k-mers graph shares almost all advantages of de Bruijn graph, we are able to adapt a Dijkstra-like breadth-first search algorithm to circumvent sequencing errors and resolve polymorphisms.


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