Using RepeatMasker to identify repetitive elements in genomic sequences

Curr Protoc Bioinformatics. 2009 Mar;Chapter 4:Unit 4.10. doi: 10.1002/0471250953.bi0410s25.


RepeatMasker is a popular software tool widely used in computational genomics to identify, classify, and mask repetitive elements, including low-complexity sequences and interspersed repeats. RepeatMasker searches for repetitive sequence by aligning the input genome sequence against a library of known repeats, such as Repbase. Here, we describe two Basic Protocols that provide detailed guidelines on how to use RepeatMasker, either via the Web interface or command-line Unix/Linux system, to analyze repetitive elements in genomic sequences. Sequence comparisons in RepeatMasker are usually performed by the alignment program cross_match, which requires significant processing time for larger sequences. An Alternate Protocol describes how to reduce the processing time using an alternative alignment program, such as WU-BLAST. Further, the advantages, limitations, and known bugs of the software are discussed. Finally, guidelines for understanding the results are provided.

MeSH terms

  • Genomics / methods*
  • Internet
  • Repetitive Sequences, Nucleic Acid*
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA / methods
  • Software*
  • User-Computer Interface