Retrieve Sequence Databases from NCBI

The download_databases() function implemented in biomartr allows users to download entire sequence databases from NCBI.

Search for available databases

When specifying the argument db_name = "all" in listDatabases() users retrieve a list of of available sequence database files in *.fasta format stored in NCBI.


# retrieve a list of available sequence databases at NCBI
# and look at the first 30 records
head(listDatabases(db_name = "all"), 30)
1                       README
2                        FASTA
3  human_genomic.00.tar.gz.md5
4             env_nr.00.tar.gz
5         env_nr.00.tar.gz.md5
6             env_nr.01.tar.gz
7         env_nr.01.tar.gz.md5
8             env_nt.00.tar.gz
9         env_nt.00.tar.gz.md5
10            env_nt.01.tar.gz
11        env_nt.01.tar.gz.md5
12            env_nt.02.tar.gz
13        env_nt.02.tar.gz.md5
14                  est.tar.gz
15              est.tar.gz.md5
16         est_human.00.tar.gz
17     est_human.00.tar.gz.md5
18         est_human.01.tar.gz
19     est_human.01.tar.gz.md5
20            est_mouse.tar.gz
21        est_mouse.tar.gz.md5
22        est_others.00.tar.gz
23    est_others.00.tar.gz.md5
24        est_others.01.tar.gz
25    est_others.01.tar.gz.md5
26        est_others.02.tar.gz
27    est_others.02.tar.gz.md5
28        est_others.03.tar.gz
29    est_others.03.tar.gz.md5
30        est_others.04.tar.gz

However, in case users already know which database they would like to retrieve they can filter for the exact files by specifying the NCBI database name. In the following example all sequence files that are part of the NCBI nr database shall be retrieved.

# show all NCBI nr files
listDatabases(db_name = "nr")
 [1] "nr.00.tar.gz" "nr.01.tar.gz" "nr.02.tar.gz" "nr.03.tar.gz" "nr.04.tar.gz" "nr.05.tar.gz"
 [7] "nr.16.tar.gz" "nr.06.tar.gz" "nr.15.tar.gz" "nr.30.tar.gz" "nr.07.tar.gz" "nr.08.tar.gz"
[13] "nr.09.tar.gz" "nr.10.tar.gz" "nr.11.tar.gz" "nr.12.tar.gz" "nr.13.tar.gz" "nr.14.tar.gz"
[19] "nr.28.tar.gz" "nr.29.tar.gz" "nr.31.tar.gz" "nr.17.tar.gz" "nr.18.tar.gz" "nr.19.tar.gz"
[25] "nr.20.tar.gz" "nr.21.tar.gz" "nr.22.tar.gz" "nr.23.tar.gz" "nr.32.tar.gz" "nr.24.tar.gz"
[31] "nr.25.tar.gz" "nr.26.tar.gz" "nr.27.tar.gz" "nr.33.tar.gz" "nr.34.tar.gz" "nr.35.tar.gz"
[37] "nr.36.tar.gz" "nr.37.tar.gz" "nr.38.tar.gz" "nr.39.tar.gz" "nr.40.tar.gz" "nr.41.tar.gz"

The output illustrates that the NCBI nr database has been separated into 41 files. This example shall illustrate that NCBI database files can be listed by specifing the db_name argument.

Further examples are:

# show all NCBI nt files
listDatabases(db_name = "nt")
 [1] "nt.00.tar.gz" "nt.01.tar.gz" "nt.02.tar.gz" "nt.03.tar.gz" "nt.04.tar.gz" "nt.05.tar.gz"
 [7] "nt.06.tar.gz" "nt.07.tar.gz" "nt.08.tar.gz" "nt.09.tar.gz" "nt.10.tar.gz" "nt.11.tar.gz"
[13] "nt.12.tar.gz" "nt.13.tar.gz" "nt.14.tar.gz" "nt.15.tar.gz" "nt.16.tar.gz" "nt.26.tar.gz"
[19] "nt.27.tar.gz" "nt.17.tar.gz" "nt.18.tar.gz" "nt.28.tar.gz" "nt.29.tar.gz" "nt.19.tar.gz"
[25] "nt.20.tar.gz" "nt.21.tar.gz" "nt.22.tar.gz" "nt.23.tar.gz" "nt.24.tar.gz" "nt.25.tar.gz"
[31] "nt.30.tar.gz" "nt.31.tar.gz" "nt.32.tar.gz" "nt.33.tar.gz"
# show all NCBI ESTs others
listDatabases(db_name = "est_others")
 [1] "est_others.00.tar.gz" "est_others.01.tar.gz" "est_others.02.tar.gz" "est_others.03.tar.gz"
 [5] "est_others.04.tar.gz" "est_others.05.tar.gz" "est_others.06.tar.gz" "est_others.07.tar.gz"
 [9] "est_others.08.tar.gz" "est_others.09.tar.gz" "est_others.10.tar.gz"
# show all NCBI RefSeq (only genomes)
head(listDatabases(db_name = "refseq_genomic"), 20)
 [1] "refseq_genomic.00.tar.gz" "refseq_genomic.01.tar.gz" "refseq_genomic.02.tar.gz"
 [4] "refseq_genomic.03.tar.gz" "refseq_genomic.04.tar.gz" "refseq_genomic.05.tar.gz"
 [7] "refseq_genomic.06.tar.gz" "refseq_genomic.07.tar.gz" "refseq_genomic.08.tar.gz"
[10] "refseq_genomic.09.tar.gz" "refseq_genomic.10.tar.gz" "refseq_genomic.11.tar.gz"
[13] "refseq_genomic.12.tar.gz" "refseq_genomic.13.tar.gz" "refseq_genomic.14.tar.gz"
[16] "refseq_genomic.15.tar.gz" "refseq_genomic.16.tar.gz" "refseq_genomic.17.tar.gz"
[19] "refseq_genomic.18.tar.gz" "refseq_genomic.19.tar.gz"
# show all NCBI RefSeq (only proteomes)
listDatabases(db_name = "refseq_protein")
[1] "refseq_protein.00.tar.gz" "refseq_protein.01.tar.gz" "refseq_protein.02.tar.gz"
 [4] "refseq_protein.03.tar.gz" "refseq_protein.04.tar.gz" "refseq_protein.05.tar.gz"
 [7] "refseq_protein.06.tar.gz" "refseq_protein.07.tar.gz" "refseq_protein.08.tar.gz"
[10] "refseq_protein.09.tar.gz" "refseq_protein.14.tar.gz" "refseq_protein.15.tar.gz"
[13] "refseq_protein.16.tar.gz" "refseq_protein.10.tar.gz" "refseq_protein.11.tar.gz"
[16] "refseq_protein.17.tar.gz" "refseq_protein.12.tar.gz" "refseq_protein.13.tar.gz"
[19] "refseq_protein.18.tar.gz" "refseq_protein.19.tar.gz"
# show all NCBI RefSeq (only RNA)
listDatabases(db_name = "refseq_rna")
[1] "refseq_rna.00.tar.gz" "refseq_rna.01.tar.gz" "refseq_rna.02.tar.gz" "refseq_rna.05.tar.gz"
[5] "refseq_rna.03.tar.gz" "refseq_rna.06.tar.gz" "refseq_rna.04.tar.gz" "refseq_rna.07.tar.gz"
# show all NCBI WGS
head(listDatabases(db_name = "wgs"), 20)
 [1] "wgs.66.tar.gz"  "wgs.67.tar.gz"  "wgs.68.tar.gz"  "wgs.69.tar.gz"  "wgs.70.tar.gz" 
 [6] "wgs.71.tar.gz"  "wgs.72.tar.gz"  "wgs.73.tar.gz"  "wgs.107.tar.gz" "wgs.74.tar.gz" 
[11] "wgs.79.tar.gz"  "wgs.00.tar.gz"  "wgs.01.tar.gz"  "wgs.02.tar.gz"  "wgs.03.tar.gz" 
[16] "wgs.04.tar.gz"  "wgs.05.tar.gz"  "wgs.06.tar.gz"  "wgs.07.tar.gz"  "wgs.08.tar.gz"
# show NCBI swissprot
listDatabases(db_name = "swissprot")
[1] "swissprot.tar.gz"
# show NCBI PDB
listDatabases(db_name = "pdb")
[1] "pdbnt.00.tar.gz" "pdbnt.26.tar.gz" "pdbnt.27.tar.gz" "pdbnt.01.tar.gz" "pdbnt.02.tar.gz"
 [6] "pdbnt.03.tar.gz" "pdbnt.04.tar.gz" "pdbnt.05.tar.gz" "pdbnt.06.tar.gz" "pdbnt.07.tar.gz"
[11] "pdbnt.08.tar.gz" "pdbnt.09.tar.gz" "pdbnt.10.tar.gz" "pdbnt.11.tar.gz" "pdbnt.12.tar.gz"
[16] "pdbnt.13.tar.gz" "pdbnt.14.tar.gz" "pdbnt.15.tar.gz" "pdbnt.16.tar.gz" "pdbnt.17.tar.gz"
[21] "pdbnt.18.tar.gz" "pdbnt.28.tar.gz" "pdbnt.19.tar.gz" "pdbnt.20.tar.gz" "pdbnt.21.tar.gz"
[26] "pdbnt.22.tar.gz" "pdbnt.23.tar.gz" "pdbnt.24.tar.gz" "pdbnt.29.tar.gz" "pdbnt.25.tar.gz"
[31] "pdbaa.tar.gz"    "pdbnt.30.tar.gz" "pdbnt.31.tar.gz" "pdbnt.32.tar.gz" "pdbnt.33.tar.gz"
# show NCBI Human database
listDatabases(db_name = "human")
 [1] "human_genomic.00.tar.gz"         "human_genomic.01.tar.gz"        
 [3] "human_genomic.02.tar.gz"         "human_genomic.03.tar.gz"        
 [5] "human_genomic.04.tar.gz"         "human_genomic.05.tar.gz"        
 [7] "human_genomic.06.tar.gz"         "human_genomic.07.tar.gz"        
 [9] "human_genomic.08.tar.gz"         "human_genomic_transcript.tar.gz"
[11] "human_genomic.10.tar.gz"         "human_genomic.11.tar.gz"        
[13] "human_genomic.12.tar.gz"         "human_genomic.13.tar.gz"        
[15] "human_genomic.14.tar.gz"         "human_genomic.15.tar.gz"
# show NCBI EST databases
listDatabases(db_name = "est")
 [1] "est.tar.gz"           "est_human.00.tar.gz"  "est_human.01.tar.gz"  "est_mouse.tar.gz"    
 [5] "est_others.00.tar.gz" "est_others.01.tar.gz" "est_others.02.tar.gz" "est_others.03.tar.gz"
 [9] "est_others.04.tar.gz" "est_others.05.tar.gz" "est_others.06.tar.gz" "est_others.07.tar.gz"
[13] "est_others.08.tar.gz" "est_others.09.tar.gz" "est_others.10.tar.gz"

Please not that all lookup and retrieval function will only work properly when a sufficient internet connection is provided.

Download available databases

Using the same search strategy by name as described above, users can now download these databases using the download_database() function.

For downloading only single files users can type:

# select NCBI nr version 27 =  "nr.27.tar.gz"
# and download it into the folder
download_database(name      = "nr.27.tar.gz", 
                  db_format = "blastdb",
                  path      = "nr")

Using this command first a folder named nr is created and the file nr.27.tar.gz is downloaded to this folder. Here the argument db_format specifies the blastdb format. This means that the pre-formatted (by makeblastdb formatted) database version is retrieved.

Alternatively, users can retrieve all nr files with one command by typing:

# download the entire NCBI nr database
sapply(listDatabases("nr"), download_database, path = "nr")

Using this command, all NCBI nr files are loaded into the nr folder (path = "nr").

The same approach can be applied to all other databases mentioned above, e.g.:

# download the entire NCBI nt database
sapply(listDatabases("nt"), download_database, path = "nt")
# download the entire NCBI refseq (protein) database
sapply(listDatabases("refseq_protein"), download_database, path = "refseq")
# download the entire NCBI PDB database
sapply(listDatabases("pdb"), download_database, path = "pdb")

In case users wish to download the fasta files of the corresponding databases instead of the formatdb files, they can specify the argument db_format = "blastdb".

# download the entire NCBI nt database in fasta format
sapply(listDatabases("nt"), download_database, db_format = "fasta", path = "nt")
# download the entire NCBI refseq (protein) database in fasta format
sapply(listDatabases("refseq_protein"), download_database, db_format = "fasta", path = "refseq")
# download the entire NCBI PDB database in fasta format
sapply(listDatabases("pdb"), download_database, db_format = "fasta", path = "pdb")

Please notice that most of these databases are very large, so users should take of of providing a stable internect connection throughout the download process.