Background: While next-generation sequencing technologies have made sequencing genomes faster and more affordable, deciphering the complete genome sequence of an organism remains a significant bioinformatics challenge, especially for large genomes. Low sequence coverage, repetitive elements and short read length make de novo genome assembly difficult, often resulting in sequence and/or fragment "gaps" - uncharacterized nucleotide (N) stretches of unknown or estimated lengths. Some of these gaps can be closed by re-processing latent information in the raw reads. Even though there are several tools for closing gaps, they do not easily scale up to processing billion base pair genomes.
Results: Here we describe Sealer, a tool designed to close gaps within assembly scaffolds by navigating de Bruijn graphs represented by space-efficient Bloom filter data structures. We demonstrate how it scales to successfully close 50.8% and 13.8% of gaps in human (3 Gbp) and white spruce (20 Gbp) draft assemblies in under 30 and 27 h, respectively - a feat that is not possible with other leading tools with the breadth of data used in our study.
Conclusion: Sealer is an automated finishing application that uses the succinct Bloom filter representation of a de Bruijn graph to close gaps in draft assemblies, including that of very large genomes. We expect Sealer to have broad utility for finishing genomes across the tree of life, from bacterial genomes to large plant genomes and beyond. Sealer is available for download at https://github.com/bcgsc/abyss/tree/sealer-release.