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Open Access Software

JunctionViewer: customizable annotation software for repeat-rich genomic regions

Thomas K Wolfgruber and Gernot G Presting*

Author Affiliations

Department of Molecular Biosciences and Bioengineering, University of Hawai'i at Mânoa, 1955 East-West Road, Ag Science Bldg. Rm 218, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA

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BMC Bioinformatics 2010, 11:23  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-11-23

Published: 12 January 2010

Abstract

Background

Repeat-rich regions such as centromeres receive less attention than their gene-rich euchromatic counterparts because the former are difficult to assemble and analyze. Our objectives were to 1) map all ten centromeres onto the maize genetic map and 2) characterize the sequence features of maize centromeres, each of which spans several megabases of highly repetitive DNA. Repetitive sequences can be mapped using special molecular markers that are based on PCR with primers designed from two unique "repeat junctions". Efficient screening of large amounts of maize genome sequence data for repeat junctions, as well as key centromere sequence features required the development of specific annotation software.

Results

We developed JunctionViewer to automate the process of identifying and differentiating closely related centromere repeats and repeat junctions, and to generate graphical displays of these and other features within centromeric sequences. JunctionViewer generates NCBI BLAST, WU-BLAST, cross_match and MUMmer alignments, and displays the optimal alignments and additional annotation data as concise graphical representations that can be viewed directly through the graphical interface or as PostScript® output.

This software enabled us to quickly characterize millions of nucleotides of newly sequenced DNA ranging in size from single reads to assembled BACs and megabase-sized pseudochromosome regions. It expedited the process of generating repeat junction markers that were subsequently used to anchor all 10 centromeres to the maize map. It also enabled us to efficiently identify key features in large genomic regions, providing insight into the arrangement and evolution of maize centromeric DNA.

Conclusions

JunctionViewer will be useful to scientists who wish to automatically generate concise graphical summaries of repeat sequences. It is particularly valuable for those needing to efficiently identify unique repeat junctions. The scalability and ability to customize homology search parameters for different classes of closely related repeat sequences make this software ideal for recurring annotation (e.g., genome projects that are in progress) of genomic regions that contain well-defined repeats, such as those in centromeres. Although originally customized for maize centromere sequence, we anticipate this software to facilitate the analysis of centromere and other repeat-rich regions in other organisms.