A simplified scheme of zDB annotation workflow is shown in Figure 1. In summary:

  • Annotated genome assemblies integrated into ChlamDB were downloaded from GenBank (or RefSeq if the GenBank assembly was not annotated).

  • Protein sequences were annotated based on data from multiple source databases and annotation softwares.

  • Protein sequences were clustered into orthologous groups (orthogroups) with OrthoFinder.
    • An alignment and a phylogeny was reconstructed for each orthologous group.

  • The closest homologs of each protein were identified in RefSeq and SwissProt
    • A phylogeny including the closest non-PVC homologs was reconstructed for each orthogroup

  • Data were then integrated into a custom SQL database derived from the bioSQL relational model.


Figure 1: Simplified annotation workflow.

NextFlow pipeline

The annotation pipeline summarized in Figure 1 was fully automated using NextFlow . The code with detailed software versions and command line parameters is available on github here.

Selection of PVC genomes integrated into the database

They are more than 2’000 genome assemblies classified as part of the PVC superphylum (NCBI Taxid 1783257) on the NCBI taxonomy website. Those genomes are highly redundant (with a high number of genomes of the same species, in particular for species of the Chlamydia genus). In order to limit the size of the database, not all genome assemblies were included into the database. ChlamDB version 2.0 (June 2019) includes:

  • All complete PVC genomes (June 2019).

  • All draft Chlamydiae genomes excluding draft genomes from species of the Chlamydia genus with at least one complete genome (June 2019).


Draft genomes of the most studied Chlamydia species were excluded because they are highly redundant


Draft genomes of Planctomycetes, Lentisphaerae, Verrucomicrobia and Kiritimatiellaeota phyla were excluded to limit the total number of genomes in the database. Additional genomes of clades of interest might be integrated in future releases of the database.

The list of genomes is available on ChlamDB home page. Complete genomes can be distinguished from draft genomes based on the number of contigs (“N. contigs” column) since draft assemblies exhibit more than one contig.

Protein annotation

Protein sequences were annotated using data from multiple databases and various bioinformatic softwares (Figure 1). Those annotations are summarized on the “locus” page available for each protein (see for instance the entry of CT_495).

  • Transporters were annotated using the Transporter Classification Database (TCDB) and the gBLAST3 software from the BioV suite. Detailed scores including the E-value, score, percentage of identity, the number of transmembrane domains identified in the query and the reference protein, the query and hit coverage are reported on the locus page.

  • COG annotation was done with rpsblast (with an e-value cutoff of 0.001) using position-specific scoring matrix (PSSM) from the Conserved Domain Database (CDD)

  • Proteins were assigned to Kegg Orthologs (KO) numbers with KofamScan (default parameters) and KOfam (a database of Hidden Markov Models [HMM] of KEGG Orthologs). KofamScan rely on HMMER to search the HMM database.
  • Enzyme Commission numbers were assigned based on Kegg Orthologs annotations and with PRIAM, a method for automated enzyme detection in fully sequenced genomes. PRIAM uses position-specific scoring matrix (PSSM) of all sequences available in the ENZYME database.

  • InterProScan was used to identify protein signatures such as transmembrane domains, Pfam domains, CDD domains,… Detailed InterPro annotations as well as scores associated with each annotation are reported on the “InterproScan” tab of each locus page.
    • The InterProScan match lookup service was used to retrieve pre-calculated InterProScan results for protein integrated into the InterPro database. For sequences not in the lookup service, InterProScan was used to analyse sequences from scratch.

  • Mapping to STRING (a database of protein-protein interactions) was done by exact protein sequence match. Protein sequences from SRING were indexed using SEGUID checksums. Associations to the scientific literature (PMID tab visible only if references were found) were retrived using the STRING API.

  • Protein subcellular localization predictions were done using PSORTb (withe the --negative argument).

  • Effectors of the type III secretion system were predicted using four different softwares:
  • TODO: UNIPARC - SwissProt

Homology search (RefSeq and SwissProt)

  • The closest identifiable RefSeq homologs were searched with Diamond (parameters: --max-target-seqs 200 -e 0.01 --max-hsps 1). The 200 first hits were retained for each protein.

  • The closest identifiable SwissProt homologs were searched with BLASTp (parameters: -evalue 0.001). The 100 first hits were retained for each protein.

Identification of Orthogroups

Orthogroups (or orthologous groups) were identified with OrthoFinder. This tools identify orthogroups based on BLASTp (parameters: -evalue 0.001) results using the MCL clustering software.


Orthologs are pairs of genes that descended from a single gene in the last common ancestor (LCA) of two species.


An orthogroup is the group of genes descended from a single gene in the last common ancestor (LCA) of a group of species. As gene duplication and loss occur frequently in bacteria, we rarely have exactly one ortholog in each considered genome.

Orthogroup multiple sequence alignments & phylogenies

Protein sequences of each orthogroup were aligned with MAFFT (default parameters). A phylogeny was then reconstructed for each orthogroup of three or more sequences. The phylogeny was reconstructed with FastTree with default parameters. The node support values are not traditionnal boostrap support values. FastTree uses the Shimodaira-Hasegawa test with 1,000 bootstrap replicates to quickly estimate the reliability of each split in the tree. Values higher than 0.95 can be considered as “strongly supported”.

Phlogeny including top RefSeq hits

A second phylogeny was reconstructed for each orthogroup. This phylogeny includes the 4 best non-PVC RefSeq hits of each protein (see the Homology search paragraph). First, the NCBI taxon ID of each RefSeq hit was retrieved using the prot.accession2taxid mapping file available from the NCBI taxonomy ftp website. PVC hits were removed and the amino acid sequence of the 4 best non-PVC hits was retrieved from the NCBI using the biopython interface to Entrez. Protein sequences of each orthogroup + RefSeq homologs were aligned with MAFFT (default parameters) and the phylogeny was reconstructed with FastTree (default parameters).

This phylogeny allows users to check whether PVC proteins form a monophyletic group or if they are for instance hints of horizontal gene transfer(s) with bacteria from other phyla.

Calculation of pairwise protein identity

Pairwise protein sequence identities reported on ChlamDB were calculated based on the multiple sequence alignments of orthologous groups (two see previous paragraph). The identity between two sequences can be calculated in different ways (see this blog post discussing that topic). We calculated the identity by excluding gaps and calculating the identity based on aligned positions only:

  • number of matches / ( number of matches + number of mismatches)

Nevertheless, if the alignment covered less than 30% of one of the two compared sequences, the identity was set to 0.

Circular genome plots (Circos)

Circular genome plots are generated dynamically with Circos. These plots are not generated based on the alignment of DNA sequences but based on orthology data (see previous paragraphs). The two outer gray circles show the location of open reading frames (ORFs) encoded on the leading and lagging strand of the reference genome (Figure 2 A and B). The red/blue inner circles show the conservation of each protein encoding ORF in one or multiple other genomes. Identity values were pre-calculated from protein alignments (see previous paragraphs). If the compared genomes encode more than one ortholog, the highest identity is used to color the region.


Figure 2: Example of circular genome plot. A) Compared genomes are ordered based on the median protein identity with the reference genome. B) Zoom showing the detail of a genomic region. All circular plots are interactive and users can click on any ORF to access the detailed annotation page of the corresponding protein.

Species phylogeny

The reference phylogeny was reconstructed with FastTree (default parameters, JTT+CAT model) based on the concatenated alignment of 32 single copy orthogroups conserved in at least 266 out of the 277 genomes part of ChlamDB 2.0.

Prediction of protein-protein interactions

The interactions reported in the “interactions” tab were predicted based on two different approaches: phylogenetic profiling and conservation of gene neighborhood. Indeed, proteins that physically interact tend to be encoded in a close neighborhood and tend to co-occur in the same genomes (see Dandekar et al and Kensche et al. for more details).

1 Phylogenetic profiling

Orthogroup exhibiting similar patterns of presence/absence were identified by calculating the euclidian and jaccard distances of all pairs of orthologroups phylogenetic profiles (see Figure 3). See Kensche et al. for a review on phylogenetic profiling methods.

  1. Phylogenetic profiles were collapsed at the species level. If an orthogroup was present in only a subset of the strains of the considered species, it was still considered as present in that species.

  2. Pairwise euclidean and jaccard distances were calculated between pairs of profiles

  3. The default euclidian distance cutoff to report interactions is 2.2. If more than 30 profiles had an euclidian distance smaller or equal to 2.2, the stringency was adjusted incrementally with cutoffs of 2, 1 and finally 0. If more than 30 profiles exhibit the exact same profile, nothing is reported. Indeed, it would by typically poorly informative profiles (e.g. proteins conserved in all species).


Figure 3: Schematic view of the phylogenetic profiling method used to predict protein-protein interactions. Distances between profiles of presence/absence of orthologs were calculated using two different metrics (euclidean and jaccard distances).


Have a look at the predicted interactors of the cell shape-determining protein MreB. The detailed profile of each orthogroup is available in the “profile” tab.


The profiles 5 and 6 in Figure 3 are strictly identitcal but poorly informative since orthologs were identified in all considered species. Spurious associations like this one cannot always be automatically discarded. Thus, those associations should always be interpreted with caution. The detailed profile of associated orthogroups is always provided (“profile” tab).

2. Identification of conserved gene neighborhood in different species

Genes encoded in a close neighborhood in distantly related species were identified based on orthology data (see Identification of Orthogroups). See for example the case of the subunits of the F-type ATPase that are systematically encoded in a close neighborhood. The method was the following:

  1. protein encoding genes were iterated for each genome

  2. if the considered protein encoding gene had one (or multiple) homolog(s) in distantly related genomes (a cutoff of 60% median protein identity was used to consider two genomes sufficently distant)

  3. the 10 kilobases upstream and downstream of each ortholog were compared to the reference genome to identify conserved neighbors (see Figure 4.A)

  4. the ratio of co-occurence of pairs of orthogroups was used to score the association between pairs of locus (Figure 4.B)

  5. only proteins exhibiting a conservation score of 0.8 are reported in the “interactions” tab of locus pages


Figure 4: Identification of conserved gene neighborhood. A) Example with the red locus, part of the orthologous group group_222. This locus has orthologs in 3 other genomes. Proteins encoded 10 kilobases upstream and 10 kilobases downstream of the reference locus are extracted and compared between the reference genome and all other genomes in which an ortholog is present. B) The conservation score of a pair of locus is the ratio of cases for which orthologs were encoded in the green windows out of the total number of comparisons. For instance, the green locus is encoded less than 10kb upstream of the red locus in two genomes, but more than 10kb appart in the third genome. Is score is thus of 2/3 (2 out of 2 comparsions). The pink locus is always encoded in the vicinity of the red locus in all compared genomes. Its score is thus of 3/3. C) If multiple orthologs were identified if the compared genome, only the most similar one is considered for the comparison (based on amino acid identity calculated based on the orthogroup multiple sequence alignment).


Since orthologous groups identified by OrthoFinder include both orthologs and paralogs, the relationship between pair of genomes is not necessarily 1 to 1 (have a look at the OMA website to read detailed explanations of the different types of orthologs). If multiple orthologs were encoded in the compared genome, only the most similar one was used for the comparison (Figure 4.C). The choice of the closest locus was based on protein identity and not based on phylogenetic trees, which means that we might not always consider the most closely related protein encoded in the compared genome for the comparison.

Prediction of candidate type III secretion system effectors

Effectors of the type III secretion system are poorly conserved. In addition, the signal allowing to specifically secrete effector proteins is not clearly identified. It is thus difficult to identify effectors in newly sequenced genomes. Predition methods generally rely on the use classifiers that are trained on a set of known effector proteins. Since all Chlamydiae genomes encode a type III secretion system, candidate effectors were identified using four different classifiers:

Results of all four tools are reported on the locus page of each protein (in the T3SS effectors prediction section).

Taxonomic profile of Pfam domains and COGs

Coding sequences of the 6661 reference and representative genomes available from RefSeq (September 2017) were downloaded from RefSeq ftp ( Hidden Markov models of the PFAM database were used to search for sporulation-related domains using hmmsearch (HMMER version 3.1b2). Hits were filtered based on PFAM trusted cutoffs. Genomes were then grouped by order based on the NCBI Taxonomy database with the python library ete3. Only orders exhibiting a minimum of 5 genomes are reported of the figure.


Phylogenetic profiles of COGs are based on data from the eggnog database (v4.51). Eggnog provides Clusters of Orthologous Groups annotation of 2,031 genomes. Taxonomic profiles of non-supervised orthologous groups (NOGs) were extracted from the file NOG.members.tsv . The 2,031 genomes were classified according to the classification of the NCBI taxonomy database.

Evaluation of the quality and completeness of draft genomes

The completeness and contamination of each genome was evaluated with checkM (v1.0.12). Completeness and contamination estimates are reported on the the home page phylogeny.

Pubmed References

Links to Pubmed references were retreived from two difference sources: STRING (v11) and PaperBLAST (September 25 2019_release).

  • STRING references are derived from text mining of scientific publications. Only PubMed references from identical protein sequences were retrieved from STRING.

  • PaperBLAST links to research publications come from automated text searches against the articles in EuropePMC and from manually-curated information from GeneRIF, UniProtKB/Swiss-Prot, BRENDA, CAZy (as made available by dbCAN), CharProtDB, MetaCyc, EcoCyc, REBASE, and the Fitness Browser (see PaperBLAST paper). All proteins were blasted against the PaperBLAST database (evalue cutoff of 10^-3). Links to research publications from the top 20 best hits were integrated into ChlamDB.

Protein accessions mapping

Protein accessions from multiple reference databases such as RefSeq, GenBank and UniProt can be used to search for ChlamDB entries. The mapping between the various identifiers was donc

  • by exact protein sequence match for UniParc/UniProt

  • was extracted from RefSeq genome assembly records for RefSeq. The “old_locus_tag” qualifier was used to map RefSeq locus tags with Genbank locus tags (see RefSeq documentation)

SQL database and Web Interface

TODO * database size 80Gb * Figure generated from stores data


Thee SQL database is about 80GB in size. Protein alignments are not stored into the database.

Source databases

Version of source databases used for the annotation

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Software versions

Version of the main softwares used for protein annotation

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Code availability

Website interface

Annotation pipeline

Public database download and indexing