ToxCodAn: a new toxin annotator and guide to venom gland transcriptomics

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Motivation: Next-generation sequencing has become exceedingly common and has transformed our ability to explore nonmodel systems. In particular, transcriptomics has facilitated the study of venom and evolution of toxins in venomous lineages; however, many challenges remain. Primarily, annotation of toxins in the transcriptome is a laborious and time-consuming task. Current annotation software often fails to predict the correct coding sequence and overestimates the number of toxins present in the transcriptome. Here, we present ToxCodAn, a python script designed to perform precise annotation of snake venom gland transcriptomes. We test ToxCodAn with a set of previously curated transcriptomes and compare the results to other annotators. In addition, we provide a guide for venom gland transcriptomics to facilitate future research and use Bothrops alternatus as a case study for ToxCodAn and our guide. Results: Our analysis reveals that ToxCodAn provides precise annotation of toxins present in the transcriptome of venom glands of snakes. Comparison with other annotators demonstrates that ToxCodAn has better performance with regard to run time (⁠>20x faster), coding sequence prediction (⁠>3x more accurate) and the number of toxins predicted (generating >4x less false positives). In this sense, ToxCodAn is a valuable resource for toxin annotation. The ToxCodAn framework can be expanded in the future to work with other venomous lineages and detect novel toxins.
Nachtigall PG, Rautsaw RM, Ellsworth SA, Mason AJ, Rokyta DR, Parkinson CL, et al. ToxCodAn: a new toxin annotator and guide to venom gland transcriptomics. Brief Bioinform. 2021 Apr;in press. doi:10.1093/bib/bbab095.
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