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      Magic-BLAST, an accurate RNA-seq aligner for long and short reads

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          Next-generation sequencing technologies can produce tens of millions of reads, often paired-end, from transcripts or genomes. But few programs can align RNA on the genome and accurately discover introns, especially with long reads. We introduce Magic-BLAST, a new aligner based on ideas from the Magic pipeline.


          Magic-BLAST uses innovative techniques that include the optimization of a spliced alignment score and selective masking during seed selection. We evaluate the performance of Magic-BLAST to accurately map short or long sequences and its ability to discover introns on real RNA-seq data sets from PacBio, Roche and Illumina runs, and on six benchmarks, and compare it to other popular aligners. Additionally, we look at alignments of human idealized RefSeq mRNA sequences perfectly matching the genome.


          We show that Magic-BLAST is the best at intron discovery over a wide range of conditions and the best at mapping reads longer than 250 bases, from any platform. It is versatile and robust to high levels of mismatches or extreme base composition, and reasonably fast. It can align reads to a BLAST database or a FASTA file. It can accept a FASTQ file as input or automatically retrieve an accession from the SRA repository at the NCBI.

          Electronic supplementary material

          The online version of this article (10.1186/s12859-019-2996-x) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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          Most cited references 22

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          Basic local alignment search tool.

          A new approach to rapid sequence comparison, basic local alignment search tool (BLAST), directly approximates alignments that optimize a measure of local similarity, the maximal segment pair (MSP) score. Recent mathematical results on the stochastic properties of MSP scores allow an analysis of the performance of this method as well as the statistical significance of alignments it generates. The basic algorithm is simple and robust; it can be implemented in a number of ways and applied in a variety of contexts including straightforward DNA and protein sequence database searches, motif searches, gene identification searches, and in the analysis of multiple regions of similarity in long DNA sequences. In addition to its flexibility and tractability to mathematical analysis, BLAST is an order of magnitude faster than existing sequence comparison tools of comparable sensitivity.
            • Record: found
            • Abstract: found
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            Is Open Access

            The Sequence Alignment/Map format and SAMtools

            Summary: The Sequence Alignment/Map (SAM) format is a generic alignment format for storing read alignments against reference sequences, supporting short and long reads (up to 128 Mbp) produced by different sequencing platforms. It is flexible in style, compact in size, efficient in random access and is the format in which alignments from the 1000 Genomes Project are released. SAMtools implements various utilities for post-processing alignments in the SAM format, such as indexing, variant caller and alignment viewer, and thus provides universal tools for processing read alignments. Availability: Contact:
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              Gapped BLAST and PSI-BLAST: a new generation of protein database search programs.

               S Altschul (1997)
              The BLAST programs are widely used tools for searching protein and DNA databases for sequence similarities. For protein comparisons, a variety of definitional, algorithmic and statistical refinements described here permits the execution time of the BLAST programs to be decreased substantially while enhancing their sensitivity to weak similarities. A new criterion for triggering the extension of word hits, combined with a new heuristic for generating gapped alignments, yields a gapped BLAST program that runs at approximately three times the speed of the original. In addition, a method is introduced for automatically combining statistically significant alignments produced by BLAST into a position-specific score matrix, and searching the database using this matrix. The resulting Position-Specific Iterated BLAST (PSI-BLAST) program runs at approximately the same speed per iteration as gapped BLAST, but in many cases is much more sensitive to weak but biologically relevant sequence similarities. PSI-BLAST is used to uncover several new and interesting members of the BRCT superfamily.

                Author and article information

                BMC Bioinformatics
                BMC Bioinformatics
                BMC Bioinformatics
                BioMed Central (London )
                25 July 2019
                25 July 2019
                : 20
                ISNI 0000 0001 2297 5165, GRID grid.94365.3d, National Center for Biotechnology Information, National Library of Medicine, , National Institutes of Health, ; 8600 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, MD 20894 USA
                © The Author(s). 2019

                Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

                Funded by: Intramural Research Program of the NIH, National Library of Medicine
                Custom metadata
                © The Author(s) 2019

                Bioinformatics & Computational biology

                alignment, rna-seq, blast


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