NINJA-OPS: Fast Accurate Marker Gene Alignment Using Concatenated Ribosomes

Gabriel A. Al-Ghalith, Emmanuel Montassier, Henry N. Ward, Dan Knights

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


The explosion of bioinformatics technologies in the form of next generation sequencing (NGS) has facilitated a massive influx of genomics data in the form of short reads. Short read mapping is therefore a fundamental component of next generation sequencing pipelines which routinely match these short reads against reference genomes for contig assembly. However, such techniques have seldom been applied to microbial marker gene sequencing studies, which have mostly relied on novel heuristic approaches. We propose NINJA Is Not Just Another OTU-Picking Solution (NINJA-OPS, or NINJA for short), a fast and highly accurate novel method enabling reference-based marker gene matching (picking Operational Taxonomic Units, or OTUs). NINJA takes advantage of the Burrows-Wheeler (BW) alignment using an artificial reference chromosome composed of concatenated reference sequences, the “concatesome,” as the BW input. Other features include automatic support for paired-end reads with arbitrary insert sizes. NINJA is also free and open source and implements several pre-filtering methods that elicit substantial speedup when coupled with existing tools. We applied NINJA to several published microbiome studies, obtaining accuracy similar to or better than previous reference-based OTU-picking methods while achieving an order of magnitude or more speedup and using a fraction of the memory footprint. NINJA is a complete pipeline that takes a FASTA-formatted input file and outputs a QIIME-formatted taxonomy-annotated BIOM file for an entire MiSeq run of human gut microbiome 16S genes in under 10 minutes on a dual-core laptop.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1004658
JournalPLoS computational biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Al-Ghalith et al.


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