A Reference Viral Database (RVDB) To Enhance Bioinformatics Analysis of High-Throughput Sequencing for Novel Virus Detection

mSphere. 2018 Mar 14;3(2):e00069-18. doi: 10.1128/mSphereDirect.00069-18. eCollection 2018 Mar-Apr.


Detection of distantly related viruses by high-throughput sequencing (HTS) is bioinformatically challenging because of the lack of a public database containing all viral sequences, without abundant nonviral sequences, which can extend runtime and obscure viral hits. Our reference viral database (RVDB) includes all viral, virus-related, and virus-like nucleotide sequences (excluding bacterial viruses), regardless of length, and with overall reduced cellular sequences. Semantic selection criteria (SEM-I) were used to select viral sequences from GenBank, resulting in a first-generation viral database (VDB). This database was manually and computationally reviewed, resulting in refined, semantic selection criteria (SEM-R), which were applied to a new download of updated GenBank sequences to create a second-generation VDB. Viral entries in the latter were clustered at 98% by CD-HIT-EST to reduce redundancy while retaining high viral sequence diversity. The viral identity of the clustered representative sequences (creps) was confirmed by BLAST searches in NCBI databases and HMMER searches in PFAM and DFAM databases. The resulting RVDB contained a broad representation of viral families, sequence diversity, and a reduced cellular content; it includes full-length and partial sequences and endogenous nonretroviral elements, endogenous retroviruses, and retrotransposons. Testing of RVDBv10.2, with an in-house HTS transcriptomic data set indicated a significantly faster run for virus detection than interrogating the entirety of the NCBI nonredundant nucleotide database, which contains all viral sequences but also nonviral sequences. RVDB is publically available for facilitating HTS analysis, particularly for novel virus detection. It is meant to be updated on a regular basis to include new viral sequences added to GenBank. IMPORTANCE To facilitate bioinformatics analysis of high-throughput sequencing (HTS) data for the detection of both known and novel viruses, we have developed a new reference viral database (RVDB) that provides a broad representation of different virus species from eukaryotes by including all viral, virus-like, and virus-related sequences (excluding bacteriophages), regardless of their size. In particular, RVDB contains endogenous nonretroviral elements, endogenous retroviruses, and retrotransposons. Sequences were clustered to reduce redundancy while retaining high viral sequence diversity. A particularly useful feature of RVDB is the reduction of cellular sequences, which can enhance the run efficiency of large transcriptomic and genomic data analysis and increase the specificity of virus detection.

Keywords: RVDB; adventitious viruses; bioinformatics analysis; high-throughput sequencing; reference virus database; viral sequences; virus detection.