Annotating de novo transcriptomes with dammit


dammit is an annotation pipeline written by Camille Scott. dammit runs a relatively standard annotation protocol for transcriptomes: it begins by building gene models with Transdecoder, and then uses the following protein databases as evidence for annotation: Pfam-A, Rfam, OrthoDB, uniref90 (uniref is optional with --full).

If a protein dataset is available, this can also be supplied to the dammit pipeline with --user-databases as optional evidence for annotation.

In addition, BUSCO v3 is run, which will compare the gene content in your transcriptome with a lineage-specific data set. The output is a proportion of your transcriptome that matches with the data set, which can be used as an estimate of the completeness of your transcriptome based on evolutionary expectation (Simho et al. 2015). There are several lineage-specific datasets available from the authors of BUSCO. We will use the metazoa dataset for this transcriptome.


Annotation necessarily requires a lot of software! dammit attempts to simplify this and make it as reliable as possible, but we still have some dependencies.

sudo apt-get -y install python3-dev hmmer unzip \
    infernal ncbi-blast+ liburi-escape-xs-perl emboss liburi-perl \
    build-essential libsm6 libxrender1 libfontconfig1 \
    parallel libx11-dev python3-venv last-align transdecoder

Create a python 3 environment for dammit:

python3.5 -m venv ~/py3
. ~/py3/bin/activate
pip install -U pip

Install shmlast

pip install -r <(curl
pip install --upgrade pip
pip install shmlast

Install the proper version of GNU parallel:

(wget -O - || curl || fetch -o - | bash
sudo cp $HOME/bin/parallel /usr/bin/parallel

and then BUSCO…

git clone
pushd busco && python install && popd

export PATH=$HOME/busco/scripts:$PATH
echo 'export PATH=$HOME/busco/scripts:$PATH' >> ~/py3/bin/activate

Finally, install dammit from the refactor/1.0 branch:

pip install

Database Preparation

dammit has two major subcommands: dammit databases and dammit annotate. databases checks that the databases are installed and prepared, and if run with the --install flag, will perform that installation and preparation. If you just run dammit databases on its own, you should get a notification that some database tasks are not up-to-date – we need to install them!

Unless we’re running short on time, we’re going to do a full run. If you want to run a quick version of the pipeline, add a parameter, --quick, to omit OrthoDB, Uniref, Pfam, and Rfam. A “full” run will take longer to install and run, but you’ll have access to the full annotation pipeline.

dammit databases --install --busco-group metazoa # --quick

We used the “metazoa” BUSCO group. We can use any of the BUSCO databases, so long as we install them with the dammit databases subcommand. You can see the whole list by running dammit databases -h. You should try to match your species as closely as possible for the best results. If we want to install another, for example:

dammit databases --install --busco-group fungi  # --quick

Note: if you have limited space on your instance, you can also install these databases in a different location (e.g. on an external volume). You would want to run this command before running the database installs we just ran.

#Run  ONLY if you want to install databases in different location. 
#To run, remove the `#` from the front of the following command:

# dammit databases --database-dir /path/to/databases


Keep things organized! Let’s make a project directory:

export PROJECT=/mnt/work
mkdir -p annotation
cd annotation

You all ran Trinity earlier to generate an assembly, but just in case, we’re going to download a version of that assembly to annotate.

curl -OL
mv Trinity.fasta trinity.nema.fasta

Now we’ll download a custom Nematostella vectensis protein database available from JGI. Here, somebody has already created a proper database for us [1] (it has a reference proteome available through uniprot). If your critter is a non-model organism, you will likely need to create your own with proteins from closely-related species. This will rely on your knowledge of your system!

curl -LO
gunzip -c UP000001593_45351.fasta.gz > nema.reference.prot.faa

Run the command:

dammit annotate trinity.nema.fasta --busco-group metazoa --user-databases nema.reference.prot.faa --n_threads 6 # --quick

While dammit runs, it will print out which tasks its running to the terminal. dammit is written with a library called pydoit, which is a python workflow library similar to GNU Make. This not only helps organize the underlying workflow, but also means that if we interrupt it, it will properly resume!

After a successful run, you’ll have a new directory called trinity.nema.fasta.dammit. If you look inside, you’ll see a lot of files:

ls trinity.nema.fasta.dammit/
    annotate.doit.db                              trinity.nema.fasta.dammit.namemap.csv  trinity.nema.fasta.transdecoder.pep
    dammit.log                                    trinity.nema.fasta.dammit.stats.json   trinity.nema.fasta.x.nema.reference.prot.faa.crbl.csv
    run_trinity.nema.fasta.metazoa.busco.results  trinity.nema.fasta.transdecoder.bed    trinity.nema.fasta.x.nema.reference.prot.faa.crbl.gff3
    tmp                                           trinity.nema.fasta.transdecoder.cds    trinity.nema.fasta.x.nema.reference.prot.faa.crbl.model.csv
    trinity.nema.fasta                            trinity.nema.fasta.transdecoder_dir    trinity.nema.fasta.x.nema.reference.prot.faa.crbl.model.plot.pdf
    trinity.nema.fasta.dammit.fasta               trinity.nema.fasta.transdecoder.gff3
    trinity.nema.fasta.dammit.gff3                trinity.nema.fasta.transdecoder.mRNA

The most important files for you are trinity.nema.fasta.dammit.fasta, trinity.nema.fasta.dammit.gff3, and trinity.nema.fasta.dammit.stats.json.

If the above dammit command is run again, there will be a message: **Pipeline is already completed!**

Parse dammit output

Cammille wrote dammit in Python, which includes a library to parse gff3 dammit output. To send this output to a useful table, we will need to open the Python environemnt.

cd trinity.nema.fasta.dammit

Then, manually enter each line of code to output a list of gene ID:

import pandas as pd
from dammit.fileio.gff3 import GFF3Parser
gff_file = "trinity.nema.fasta.dammit.gff3"
annotations = GFF3Parser(filename=gff_file).read()
names = annotations.sort_values(by=['seqid', 'score'], ascending=True).query('score < 1e-05').drop_duplicates(subset='seqid')[['seqid', 'Name']]
new_file = names.dropna(axis=0,how='all')

This will output a table of genes with ‘seqid’ and ‘Name’ in a .csv file: nema_gene_name_id.csv. Let’s take a look at that file:

less nema_gene_name_id.csv

Notice there are multiple transcripts per gene model prediction. This .csv file can be used in tximport in downstream DE analysis.


  1. Putnam NH, Srivastava M, Hellsten U, Dirks B, Chapman J, Salamov A, Terry A, Shapiro H, Lindquist E, Kapitonov VV, Jurka J, Genikhovich G, Grigoriev IV, Lucas SM, Steele RE, Finnerty JR, Technau U, Martindale MQ, Rokhsar DS. (2007) Sea anemone genome reveals ancestral eumetazoan gene repertoire and genomic organization. Science. 317, 86-94.