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This document covers building a TCW database for a single species. Terminology:

  • Dataset is one of the following: (1) A file of sequences with optional count data from conditions, where the sequences can be nucleotide or amino acid. (2) A set of sequences to assemble, with optional quality data.
  • Conditions may be tissues, treatments, etc that are to be compared, with optional replicates.
  • AnnoDBs are fasta files of sequences (nucleotide or amino acid) to compare the dataset sequences against for annotation. TCW provides special support for UniProt, but can use any file of sequences (e.g. Genbank nr), see runAS for obtaining and formatting the files.
Note: there is still some old terminology floating around, such as the term "library" use to be used for both "dataset" and "condition", and the acronym PAVE is still found in the configuration files as that was the name before TCW.


Running the demo

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demoTraTranscripts with counts, locations, remarksHere - this section
demoAsmAssemble transcripts and ESTsAssembly Guide
demoProProtein sequences with countsSame steps as for demoTra

Follow steps of Installation. Make sure your HOSTS.cfg is correct.

At the command line, type

The window shown on the right will be launched. Select demoTra from the Project drop-down list. Note that you can set the number of CPUs to use, although the demo does not need more than one.

1. Click the Build Database command
This loads the datasets in this section; there is one dataset of transcripts ("Ginger") with count data for three conditions ("Root","Tip","Zone"), where the first condition has five replicates and the second two conditions have one replicate.

Note: A command button will turn gray while it is executing, and there will be output to the terminal with any errors, warning and the state of execution.
Note: A command button will not be active when it is not valid to run, e.g. the Instantiate command is grayed out since the datasets have not been loaded.

2. Click the Instantiate command.

  • The Skip Assembly was checked so the transcripts will simply be loaded, without assembly.
  • The Use Sequence Names From File is not checked, meaning that the TCW will assign new, sequentially-numbered names prefixed by the singleTCW ID.

From this point on, you may run

./viewSingleTCW tra
or select the Overview button after any step to view the results that have been entered.

3. Click Annotate
This searches against several UniProt partial databases which have been provided as part of the package.

(Click to see larger image)

There may be one or more yes/no prompts for you to answer at the terminal; keep an eye on the terminal until it says "Start annotating sequences", at which point, it will run without any further prompts. For example, if the GO database has not been built yet (see Step 5), the following will be written to the terminal:

+++Warning: GO_tree go_demo is missing; ignoring GO step
--Please confirm above parameters. Continue with annotation?  (y/n)?
Answer 'y' to continue.

The output to the terminal and to the file projects/demoTra/logs/annotator.log will look something like this log (this includes the GO annotation).

4. Click the Add Remarks or Location button (bottom of window), a window will popup (not shown).

  1. Select the "..." on the same line as the label Location file:, select the file "traLocations.txt", then select the button Add on the same line.
  2. Select the "..." on the same line as the label Remark file:, select the file "traRemarks.txt", then select the button Add on the same line.

5. To build the GO database, see Demo annotation setup. Then execute GO Only.

Time for adding the GOs: This takes longer than the other TCW steps, where it takes around 2 to 5 minutes for this demo. It has been timed on Linux with both Oracle MySQL and MariaDB 10.0.11, and on Mac with Oracle MySQL. However, the time for Linux MariaDB 5.5.56 was significantly longer, and the reason has not been determined. If it takes a lot longer than 4 minutes for this step, check your max_allows_packet (see Trouble shooting).

6. To compute differential expression (DE), install R and the respective packages. From the command line, execute

./runDE tra
The DE Guide describes how to install the necessary packages, and how to add DE p-values to the TCW database. If Step 5 has been run, then you can also add the p-values for the GO.


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Follow steps of Installation. Make sure your HOSTS.cfg is correct.

To create a new project, press the Add Project button at the top of the runSingleTCW interface. You will be prompted for a project name; enter a name using letters, numbers, or underscores (no spaces). Do not include "sTCW", that will be added. When you select "OK",
  1. The name will be entered for singleTCW ID, and for Database with the prefix "sTCW" .
  2. The project/<name> directory will be created with files LIB.cfg and sTCW.cfg. These maintain all information you enter.
For example, if you enter the name "example", the ID will be "example" and the database will be "sTCW_example". You cannot change the Database name, but you can shorten the singleTCW ID, as discussed in the next paragraph.

singleTCW ID: This should be a short descriptive name (2-5 characters, e.g. "ex"). It is used for the following:

  1. This can be used as a command line parameter to runDE and viewSingleTCW, e.g. "viewSingleTCW ex".
  2. If TCW generates the sequence names (if Use Sequence Names from File is not checked), the singleTCW ID followed by sequential numbers will be used, e.g. ex_00001, ex_00002, etc.

Instead of using the Add Projects, you may create a directory under /projects and put your sequence files along with any other optional files (i.e. quality and count); when you select the project pulldown, you will see your project (the project pulldown lists all directories under /projects).

Build Database

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Define all datasets, then select Build Database to load the data into the database. Datasets cannot be added to an existing database.

Defining a sequence dataset

A TCW project must have at least one sequence dataset, which is a FASTA file of sequences. Select Add beside the Sequence Datasets and the panel will be replaced with the one shown on the lower right.

SeqID: Enter the dataset name (a brief identifier) in the first box; it should be a short (3-5 characters) name.

Sequence File: Click the browse button labeled "..." to select the fasta file of sequences. The ">" lines in the fasta file are the sequence names, where characters other than letters, numbers, and underscores will be changed to underscores.

Additional information:

  1. Count File: For already assembled transcripts (e.g. Illumina) or protein sequences, there maybe associated count files. Adding them is covered below in Defining count data.
  2. Quality File: For Sanger ESTs or 454 data, there may be a quality file (standard Phred quality scores in fasta format).
  3. Sanger ESTs: TCW assumes the 5' ESTs have the ".f" suffix and the 3' ESTs have the ".r" suffix. If there are different from this, enter the correct ones.
  4. ATTRIBUTES: Enter any additional information as desired in this section. This information is very important as it provides a description of the data that is stored in the database and shown on the Overview panel of viewSingleTCW.

After entering the files and attributes, select Keep. The main panel will reappear with the SeqID and Title added to the Sequence Datasets table. Additionally, the information will be written in projects/<name>/LIB.cfg.

Updating attributes

The attribute information can be added or changed after the database is created by using the Edit button on the main panel; note, the projects/<name>/LIB.cfg file has to be accessible to change attributes.

Defining count data

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This section discusses inputing the tabular file of replicate counts per sequence; the exact format of this file and building it is covered in the section Build combined count file below.

Count File: Click the browse button labeled "..." to select the file containing the table of counts for the sequences.


Keep: The dataset panel disappears and the main panel returns. The sequence dataset will be shown in the first table, while the conditions (column headings from the count file) will be listed in the second table.

Use Define Replicates to group replicates, as discussed in the next section. After defining the replicates, use Edit Attributes to add information for the conditions, which will be shown on the viewSingleTCW overview.

Define biological replicates

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If you have biological replicates, you now need to click Define Replicates to define them. This brings up the panel shown on the right (example data from "demoTra").

The first column shows the sequence SeqID, which you entered when creating the sequence dataset. The second column shows the "Column name from file", which are the column headers in the count file (see example below). The third column shows the "Condition", which groups the replicates into a single condition.

  • If the replicates names in the count file are named with the format "condition name + replicate number" (e.g. Root1), then TCW can automatically group them correctly.
  • Otherwise, you will need to edit the "Condition" column to map your replicate names to their condition. To edit a "Condition", highlight the row, then click on the appropriate cell (it is a little finicky, you may need to click at the beginning or end...); it will turn white indicating you can edit the cell.
  • On Keep, the Associated Counts table on the main panel will be updated, showing the correct condition list and number of replicates for each (as shown on the right). In order to add metadata (e.g. title), select a row followed by Edit.

    Naming rules:

    1. There must not be any duplicate names between the SeqID column of the first table and the Condition of the second table, e.g. there may not be a SeqID of "Root" in this example.
    2. There can be NO duplicate replicate or condition names between Sequence Datasets.

    The combined count file

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    The Count File is a tab or space delimited file where the first line contains the word "SeqID" (or any label) followed by the condition column headings. If your file is comma-delimited, they can be replaced with sed -i"" 's/,/" "/g' filename

    Example Count File: The following is the demoTra count file, showing the first 4 transcripts and counts for three conditions, where the first condition (Root) has five replicates. TCW determines the condition names and replicate numbers are from the column headers. The sequence names must correspond to those in the sequence file.

    SeqID           Root1 Root2 Root3 Root4 Root5 Tip1 Zone1
    tZoR_000023     378   1002  1649  826   1195  726  151
    tZoR_000117     101   206   151   109   185   129  58
    tZoR_000246     1859  2506  1334  1541  2307  3012 976
    tZoR_000335     529   919   1103  810   1427  2338 1438
    Build combined count file

    It is common to have separate count files for each sample, in which case, you can use the Build combined count file to generate the combined count file. This explanation will continue using the "demoTra" example.

    The easiest way to handle many sample files is to put them in one directory. Name each file with the "condition name + replicate number"; TCW parses up to the first "." to determine the condition and replicate number (the suffix can be whatever you want). For example, in the directory projects/demoTra/counts are the files:

    Root1.cnt	Root2.cnt	Root3.cnt	Root4.cnt	
    Root5.cnt	Tip1.cnt	Zone1.cnt
    As shown in this example, the file prefix (e.g. Root1) is shown in the "Rep name" column in the table on the right, and is used as the column heading in the combined file. Furthermore, the replicates for a condition will be grouped together by the text up to the number (as shown previously in Define biological replicates).

    To build the file:

    • Select Build combined count file from the Add and edit a Sequence Dataset panel.
    • Select Add Directory of Files, which brings up a file chooser window; select the directory containing the files (e.g. "count") and it loads all files from the selected directory, as shown on the right.
    • Select Generate File to build the file called "Combined_read_counts.csv". Control will return to the Sequence Dataset panel, and this filename will be automatically entered into the "Count File:" entry box.

    If your files are not in one directory, or not named correctly, you will need to add them individually using the Add Rep File. You probably will need to edit the "Rep name" column; to edit the name, highlight the row then click the mouse at the right edge of the entry box (if that doesn't work, trying clicking at the beginning).

    As already described, the replicates are grouped by clicking the Define Replicates button on the main window.

    Instantiation (with optional assembly)

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    Skip Assembly: If the input is already assembled transcript sequences, or protein sequences, or gene sequences, check this option. If the datasets are ESTs, or multiple transcript datasets that you want to assemble together, do not select this option. You can tune the assembly with Options, but it typically is not necessary.

    Press Instantiate to either assemble or finalize the sequences in the database.

    Use Sequence Names from File: If the sequences are NOT going to be assembled, then this checkbox is relevant, as follows: If you want TCW to name the sequences, do not check this option; TCW will rename the sequences using the SingleTCW ID followed by sequential numbers. If you want to use the original names from file, check this option; note the following restrictions:

    • Characters other than letters, numbers, or underscores will be replaced by underscores.
    • The names must be under 25 characters. Note that the names supplied by sequencers are often longer than allowed, which will make this fail.


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    Three types of computation are performed:
    1. Basic annotation: GC content and ORFs
    2. Functional annotation: Compares one or more protein and/or nucleotide databases ("annoDBs") to each sequence in the database. If the annoDBs are from UniProt, add the associated GO annotations.
    3. Similar sequences: Compute similar sequences, which is particularly useful for analyzing the results of assembled transcripts.

    ORF finder options

    GC content and ORF finding is always performed when Annotate is performed. The ORF finder uses the annoDB hits to aid in determining the best open reading frame. See the ORF document on the ORF finding options and details on how it works. If after annotation is complete, you just want to run the ORF finder, use the ORF only option.

    AnnoDBs and UniProt

    The term "AnnoDB" refers to a fasta file of nucleotide or protein sequences, where the TCW sequences (transcript or protein) will be searched against the annoDBs for functional annotation. Read Annotation Setup for obtaining UniProt and other annotation databases.

    Import AnnoDBs provides a way to enter all UniProt databases at once. If you have used runAS for the annotation setup, make sure the last step was TCW.anno, which creates a file of UniProt databases. Select Import AnnoDBs, which pops up a file chooser, then select the projects/TCW.anno.<date>; all your UniProts will be added at once with appropriate taxonomy values (the AnnoDB table on the right was populated this way).

    Any additional databases (e.g. Genbank nr) need to be added one by one. To add an annotation database, press the Add button next to the AnnoDB table. This brings up the panel shown on the right.

    Taxonomy: this does not need to be unique, but the DB type must be, which is created as follows:

    • Type: defined in the ">" of the annoDB fasta file of sequences, e.g. "sp" for SwissProt.
    • Taxonomy: first 3 letters of the taxonomy, e.g. "pla" for plants.
    • DB type: the type+taxonomy, e.g. if the type is "sp" and the taxonomy is "plant", the TCW "DB type" will be "SPpla".
    DB type is shown in various tables of viewSingleTCW to indicate the origin of the hit.
  • Generate Hit Tabular File:

    Search Program: see the discussion on search programs.

    Parameters: defaults will be provided based on the search program used; select a search program to see its default parameters. To change the default parameters, you must select a specific search program.

    Unannotated only: if you select this, it will only search against any unannotated sequences. The annoDBs are searched in the order they are listed in the AnnoDB table, so selecting this option does not make sense for the first annoDB. This option is somewhat obsolete now that there are super-fast search programs.

  • Use Existing Hit Tabular File:

    You can supply your own hit results file (must be in tabular format). You must still provide the name of the annoDB fasta file as it extracts the description and species from it.

    The Options button below the AnnoDBs table provides additional options for:
    • ANNOTATION (described below).
    • ORF FINDER (described in ORF).
    • SIMILAR SEQUENCES (described below).
    The second two options are not available for TCW database created from protein sequences.

    GO Database (GO, KEGG, EC, InterPro, Pfam annotations)

    See Annotation Setup for creating the GO database. Once the GO database is created, it can be selected, as shown on the right. Once selected, it will display the available GO Slim categories in the drop-down below it; alternatively, a OBO formated file may be entered.

    Similar Sequences

    The annotator can compare all sequences and determine the top N pairs, where their alignments can be viewed in viewSingleTCW. This can be helpful for assessing the stringency of an assembly by viewing how similar sequences are.

    Adding to annotation

    Additional annotation can be added at a later time; see Update and Redo annotation in the Annotation Guide.

    Adding remarks and locations

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    Select the Add Remarks or Locations button at the bottom of the runSingleTCW panel; the panel on the right will replace the main panel. Details of each function is provided below.

    Both the locations and remarks can be search and viewed in viewSingleTCW. Remarks are a very good way to add additional information to the sequences.

    Add Location File

    Select the "..." on the Location File row, select a location file, and press Add on the same row.

    The file is a set of rows where the first word of each row is the sequence ID and the rest of the row is the format:

    		group:start-end(strand), e.g. SC_1:392-496(-)
    • The group would be the supercontig, scaffold, chromosome, linkage, etc. If TCW can extract numbers/X/Y from the end of the group (e.g. chr1, chrX), it adds a column containing just the "Group" number that can be sorted numerically in viewSingleTCW.
    • The sequence ID must match a sequence ID in the database, so you probably will want to "Instantiate" the sequences using "Use Sequence Names from File".

    A script is available, scripts/, to generate the transcript sequence file from a genome sequence and GFF3 file. It also generates the location file in the format needed by TCW. It only works with a subset of the GFF3 files, so probably needs to be modified for your GFF3 or GTF file. It uses BioPerl.

    The group name, start, end and strand are columns in the TCW database that can be viewed in viewSingleTCW by selecting the "Columns" tab on the left, then checking the columns under "General".

    Remark File

    Select the "..." on the Remark File row, select the file of remarks, and press Add on the same row.

    The file is a set of rows where the first word of each row is the sequence ID and the rest of the row is the Remark.

    • Single and double quotes will be changed to spaces.
    • Semi-colon will be changed to a colon.
    • Do not use the following remarks, as they are added during annotation:
          Multi-frame; ORF contains Hit; Hit contains ORF; ORF overlaps Hit; !LG

    In viewSingleTCW, the 'User Remark' can be viewed by selecting the "Columns" tab on the left, then checking the "Remark" column under "General". The remark can also be search on in the "Basic Queries Sequence"; this is a great way to add additional information about your sequences. If you make the remarks "keyword=value", you can then search on the keyword to get a specific group of sequences.

    Remove Remarks

    Selecting this button will remove all user remarks. Note, TCW adds remarks in the 'TCW Remark' column; these are not removed.

    Trouble shooting

    If errors occur, a message is written to the terminal and the Java stack-trace is written to the file sTCW.error.log. This can be sent to us so we can help you trouble shoot the problem, that is, if the message to the terminal is not sufficient to indicate how to fix the problem. NOTE: errors are appended to this file, so if an error keeps re-occurring without getting fixed, the file can get quite large.

    If the information on the runSingleTCW panel does not look right, remove /projects/<project>/LIB.cfg to start over. You can try fixing the problem by editing this file, but its necessary to format it correctly. If that does not work, email and we will guide you on how to enter the information.

    If you have many sequences (e.g. transcripts) in the database and/or many annoDBs, this can take a lot of memory. Running Annotate sets the memory to 4096, which may not be enough; in this case, once runSingleTCW is ready to annotate your database, exit and run from the command line:

    	./execAnno <project>
    You can increase the memory size in the execAnno script.

    Also see Trouble shooting.

    Differential Expression

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    TCW integrates several different R packages for computing differential expression of transcripts, including EdgeR and DESeq2; an R script containing the R commands to compute DE can also be supplied. GOseq is supported for computing DE enrichment of GO categories. The DE computations are pairwise, i.e. conditions are compared two at a time. Each comparison results in a column added to the database, which may be viewed and queried. The DE modules are accessed either through ./runDE on the command line, or the 'Launch DE' button at the bottom of the Manager interface (Fig. 1).

    For full details on the DE modules, see the Differential Expression Guide.


    Directory structure and configuration files

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    Users do not ordinarily need to look at the underlying directories and files used by TCW, however they are described here since it may be helpful at times.

    When a project is added with Add Project, runSingleTCW creates a directory under /projects with the user supplied name (referred to here as <project>). The projects/<project> directory has a LIB.cfg file where runSingleTCW saves all the library information and a sTCW.cfg file where runSingleTCW saves all the assembly and annotation information.

    Though you can put your data files anywhere that runSingleTCW can access, you may want to put your data files in the projects/<project> directory in order to keep everything in one place. Also, the /DBfasta directory contains a subset of the UniProt files for the demo; this is a good location to put all annoDB files.

    Both execAssm and execAnno write to the projects/<project> directory, where execAssm writes mainly log files, while execAnno puts all hit results in hitResults subdirectory. Hit files are NOT removed as they may be reused. Both programs write log files to a log subdirectory.

    Batch Processing

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    As mentioned above, runSingleTCW creates LIB.cfg and sTCW.cfg files under the /projects/<project> directory. Once created, you can run the three steps from the command line instead of through the interface.
    Build DatabaseexecLoadLibLIB.cfg

    The LIB.cfg and sTCW.cfg files can be edited with a text editor, but be careful as runSingleTCW and the executables expects the syntax to be exactly as it writes the file.

    VIEW/QUERY (viewSingleTCW)

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    Once a project is created, it is viewed and queried using viewSingleTCW. This program is launched either:
    1. From the command line (./viewSingleTCW), which brings up a panel of mySQL databases with the sTCW_ prefix, where databases can be selected to view.
    2. From the command line using the singleTCW ID or database name as a parameter (e.g. viewSingleTCW tra).
    3. Through the button at the bottom of the Manager interface (Fig. 1).
    The TCW Tour shows the various displays.

    Running as an applet

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    To run it as an applet:
    1. The stcw.jar has to be signed, e.g. purchase the code-signing certificate from a site such as Digicert (very easy to do), or your university may have an InCommon account you can use.
    2. You will need the mysql-connector-java-5.0.5-bin.jar (email tcw at for more information).
    3. Modify the following code as appropriate and put it in your cgi-bin:
    		Running viewSingleTCW  (please wait)
        		width=0 height=0
      		<param name="ASSEMBLY_DB" value="sTCW_your_db_name">
      		<param name="DB_URL"      value="www.your.hostname">
      		<param name="DB_USER"     value="your username (read-only)">
      		<param name="DB_PASS"     value="your password">
      		<param name="ASSEMBLY_ID" value="your singleTCW ID">
      		<param name="DESCRIPTION" value="">
      		Unable to display the viewSingleTCW applet. Please verify your Java installation.
    Important Notes:
    • Before using it on the web, run it as a desktop application as it may need to update the Overview page.
      That is, every time the database is changed, the Overview needs to be updated, which is done when you execute viewSingleTCW or the Overview option from any of the "run" executables. If it is not updated before running from the web, the web applet will not work because it cannot write to the database for overview update.
    • Also, you may need to use a port other than the default MySQL port; see MySQL port access. Also, users may need to increase their allowed memory for Java applets, see Out of memory.

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