dentist 1.0.1

Close assembly gaps using long-reads with focus on correctness.

To use this package, run the following command in your project's root directory:

Manual usage
Put the following dependency into your project's dependences section:



standard-readme compliant DUB Docker Image Version (latest semver)

Close assembly gaps using long-reads with focus on correctness.

Today, many genome sequencing project have been conducted using second-generation sequencers which produce short reads. Such assemblies have many gaps. dentist closes these gaps using a (small) set of long reads. Furthermore, it can be used to scaffold contigs freely using a set of long reads. This can be used to fix known scaffolding errors or to further scaffold output of a long-read assembly pipeline.

Table of Contents


Make sure Singularity is installed on your system. You can then use the container like so:

# launch an interactive shell
singularity shell docker://aludi/dentist:latest

# execute a single command inside the container
singularity exec docker://aludi/dentist:latest dentist --version

# run the whole workflow on a cluster using Singularity
snakemake --configfile=snakemake.yml --use-singularity --profile=slurm

The last command is explained in more detail below in the usage section.

Use Pre-Built Binaries

Download the latest pre-built binaries from the releases section and extract the contents. The tarball contains a dentist binary as well as the Snakemake workflow, example config files and this README. In short, everything you to run DENTIST.

Build from Source

Be sure to install the D package manager DUB. Install using either

dub install dentist


git clone
cd dentist
dub build

Runtime Dependencies

The following software packages are required to run dentist:

Manage sequences (reads and assemblies) in 4bit encoding alongside auxiliary information such as masks or QV tracks

Find significant local alignments.

Find alignment chains, i.e. sequences of significant local alignments possibly with unaligned gaps.

Discover tandem repeats.

Estimate coverage and compute QVs.

Compute reference-based consensus sequence for gap filling.

Please see their own documentation for installation instructions. Note, the available packages on Bioconda are outdated and should not be used at the moment.

Please use the following versions in your dependencies in case you experience troubles. These should be the same versions used in the Dockerfile:


Suppose we have the genome assembly reference.fasta that is to be updated and a set of reads reads.fasta with 25× coverage.

Quick execution with Snakemake (and Singularity)


# edit dentist.json and snakemake.yml
snakemake --configfile=snakemake.yml --use-singularity --profile=slurm

Install Snakemake version >=5.32.1 and copy these files into your working directory:

  • ./snakemake/Snakefile
  • ./snakemake/snakemake.yml
  • ./snakemake/dentist.json

Next edit snakemake.yml and dentist.json to fit your needs and optionally test your configuration with

snakemake --configfile=snakemake.yml --use-singularity --cores=1 -f -- validate_dentist_config

If no errors occurred the whole workflow can be executed using

snakemake --configfile=snakemake.yml --use-singularity --cores=all

For small genomes of a few 100 Mbp this should run on a regular workstation. One may use Snakemake's --jobs to run independent jobs in parallel. Larger data sets may require a cluster in which case you can use Snakemake's cloud or cluster facilities.

Executing on a Cluster

To make execution on a cluster easy DENTIST comes with examples files to make Snakemake use SLURM via DRMAA. Please read the documentation of Snakemake if this does not suit your needs. Another good starting point is the Snakemake-Profiles project.

Start by copying these files to your working/home directory:

  • ./snakemake/Snakefile
  • ./snakemake/snakemake.yml
  • ./snakemake/cluster.yml
  • ./snakemake/profile-slurm.yml~/.config/snakemake/slurm/config.yaml

Next adjust the profile according to your cluster. This should enable Snakemake to submit and track jobs on your cluster. You may use the configuration values specified in cluster.yml to configure job names and resource allocation for each step of the pipeline. Now, submit the workflow to your cluster by

snakemake --configfile=snakemake.yml --profile=slurm --use-singularity

Note, parameters specified in the profile provide default values and can be overridden by specififying different value on the CLI.

Manual execution

Please inspect the Snakemake workflow to get all the details. It might be useful to execute Snakemake with the -p switch which causes Snakemake to print the shell commands. If you plan to write your own workflow management for DENTIST please feel free to contact the maintainer!


DENTIST comprises a complex pipeline of with many options for tweaking. This section points out some important parameters and their effect on the result or performance.

How to Choose DENTIST Parameters

The following list comprises the important/influential parameters for DENTIST itself. Please keep in mind that the alignments generated by daligner/damapper have immense influence on the performance of DENTIST.

  • --max-insertion-error: Strong influence on quality and sensitivity. Lower values lead to lower sensitivity but higher quality. The maximum recommended value is 0.05.

  • --min-anchor-length: Higher values results in higher accuracy but lower sensitivity. Especially, large gaps cannot be closed if the value is too high. Usually the value should be at least 500 and up to 10_000.

  • --min-reads-per-pile-up: Choosing higher values for the minimum number of reads drastically reduces sensitivity but has little effect on the quality. Small values may be chosen to get the maximum sensitivity in de novo assemblies. Make sure to throughly validate the results though.

  • --min-spanning-reads: Higher values give more confidence on the correctness of closed gaps but reduce sensitivity. The value must be well below the expected coverage.

  • --allow-single-reads: May be used under careful consideration. This is intended for one of the following scenarios:

  1. DENTIST is meant to close as many gaps as possible in a de novo assembly. Then the closed gaps must be validated by other means afterwards.
  2. DENTIST is used not with real reads but with an independent assembly.
  • --existing-gap-bonus: If DENTIST finds evidence to join two contigs that are already consecutive in the input assembly (i.e. joined by Ns) then it will preferred over conflicting joins (if present) with this bonus. The default value is rather conservative, i.e. the preferred join almost always wins over other joins in case of a conflict.

  • --join-policy: Choose according to your needs:

  • scaffoldGaps: Closes only gaps that are marked by Ns in the assembly. This is the default mode of operation. Use this if you do not want to alter the scaffolding of the assembly. See also --existing-gap-bonus.

  • scaffolds: Allows whole scaffolds to be joined in addition to the effects of scaffoldGaps. Use this if you have (many) scaffolds that are not yet full chromosome-scale.

  • contigs: Allows contigs to be rearranged freely. This is especially useful in de novo assemblies before applying any other scaffolding methods as it increases the contiguity thus increasing the chance that large-scale scaffolding (e.g. Bionano or Hi-C) finds proper joins.

Choosing the Read Type

In the examples PacBio long reads are assumed but DENTIST can be run using any kind of long reads. Currently, this is either PacBio or Oxford Nanopore reads. For using none-PacBio reads, the reads_type in snakemake.yml must be set to anything other than PACBIO_SMRT. The recommendation is to use OXFORD_NANOPORE for Oxford Nanopore. These names are borrowed from the NCBI. Further details on the rationale can found in this issue.

Cluster/Cloud Execution

Cluster job schedulers can become unresponsive or even crash if too many jobs with short running time are submitted to the cluster. It is therefore advisable to adjust the workflow accordingly. We tried to provide a default configuration that works in most cases as is but the application scenarios can be very diverse and manual adjustments may become necessary. Here is a small guide which config parameters influence the number of jobs and how much resources they consume.

  • max_threads: Sets the maximum number of threads/cores a single job may use. A single-threaded job will always allocate a single core but thread-parallel steps, e.g. the sequence alignments, will use up to max_threads if snakemake has been provided enough cores via --cores.
  • -s<block_size:uint>: The assembly and reads FAST/A files are converted into Dazzler DBs. These DBs store the sequence in a 2-bit encoding and have additional features like tracks (similar to BED files). Also they are split into blocks of <block_size>Mb. Alignments are calculated on the basis of these blocks which enables easy distribution onto the cluster. The larger the block size the longer are the alignment jobs and the more memory they require but also the number of jobs is reduced. Experience shows that the block size should be between 200Mb and 500Mb.
  • propagate_batch_size: The repeat masks are homogenized by propagating them from the assembly to the reads and back again. Usually these jobs are very short because the propagation is parallelized over the blocks of the reads DB. To reduce the number of jobs both propagation directions are grouped together and submitted in batches of propagate_batch_size read blocks. Increasing propagate_batch_size reduces the number of submitted jobs and increases the run time per job. It has no effect on the memory requirements.
  • batch_size: In the collect step DENTIST identifies candidates for gap closing each consisting of a pile up of reads. From these pile ups consensus sequences are computed and validated in the process step. Each job process batch_size pile ups. Increasing batch_size reduces the number of submitted jobs and increases the run time per job. It has no effect on the memory requirements.
  • validation_blocks: The preliminarily closed gaps are validated by analyzing how the reads align to each closed gap. The validation is conducted in independent jobs for validation_blocks many blocks of the gap-closed assembly. Decreasing validation_blocks reduces the number of submitted jobs and increases the run time and memory requirements per job. The memory requirement is proportional to the size of the read alignment blocks.


Arne Ludwig, Martin Pippel, Gene Myers, Michael Hiller. DENTIST – close assembly gaps with high confidence. In preparation.


DENTIST is being developed by Arne Ludwig <> at the Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Dresden, Germany.


Contributions are warmly welcome. Just create an issue or pull request on GitHub. If you submit a pull request please make sure that:

  • the code compiles on Linux using the current release of dmd,
  • your code is covered with unit tests (if feasible) and
  • dub test runs successfully.

It is recommended to install the Git hooks included in the repository to avoid premature pull requests. You can enable all shipped hooks with this command:

git config --local core.hooksPath .githooks/

If you do not want to enable just a subset use ln -s .githooks/{hook} .git/hooks. If you want to audit code changes before they get executed on your machine you can you cp .githooks/{hook} .git/hooks instead.


This project is licensed under MIT License (see LICENSE).

  • Arne Ludwig <>
darg, vibe-d:data, string-transform-d
1.0.1 2021-Feb-22
1.0.0 2021-Feb-04
1.0.0-beta.3 2020-Jul-23
1.0.0-beta.2 2020-Jul-23
1.0.0-beta.1 2020-Mar-17
Show all 16 versions
Download Stats:
  • 0 downloads today

  • 0 downloads this week

  • 0 downloads this month

  • 10 downloads total

Short URL: