Evaluating long-read de novo assembly tools for eukaryotic genomes: insights and considerations

Bianca-Maria Cosma , Ramin Shirali Hossein Zade, Erin Noel Jordan, Paul van Lent, Chengyao Peng, Stephanie Pillay, Thomas Abeel*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Background: Assembly algorithm choice should be a deliberate, well-justified decision when researchers create genome assemblies for eukaryotic organisms from third-generation sequencing technologies. While third-generation sequencing by Oxford Nanopore Technologies (ONT) and Pacific Biosciences (PacBio) has overcome the disadvantages of short read lengths specific to next-generation sequencing (NGS), third-generation sequencers are known to produce more error-prone reads, thereby generating a new set of challenges for assembly algorithms and pipelines. However, the introduction of HiFi reads, which offer substantially reduced error rates, has provided a promising solution for more accurate assembly outcomes. Since the introduction of third-generation sequencing technologies, many tools have been developed that aim to take advantage of the longer reads, and researchers need to choose the correct assembler for their projects. Results: We benchmarked state-of-the-art long-read de novo assemblers to help readers make a balanced choice for the assembly of eukaryotes. To this end, we used 12 real and 64 simulated datasets from different eukaryotic genomes, with different read length distributions, imitating PacBio continuous long-read (CLR), PacBio high-fidelity (HiFi), and ONT sequencing to evaluate the assemblers. We include 5 commonly used long-read assemblers in our benchmark: Canu, Flye, Miniasm, Raven, and wtdbg2 for ONT and PacBio CLR reads. For PacBio HiFi reads, we include 5 state-of-the-art HiFi assemblers: HiCanu, Flye, Hifiasm, LJA, and MBG. Evaluation categories address the following metrics: reference-based metrics, assembly statistics, misassembly count, BUSCO completeness, runtime, and RAM usage. Additionally, we investigated the effect of increased read length on the quality of the assemblies and report that read length can, but does not always, positively impact assembly quality. Conclusions: Our benchmark concludes that there is no assembler that performs the best in all the evaluation categories. However, our results show that overall Flye is the best-performing assembler for PacBio CLR and ONT reads, both on real and simulated data. Meanwhile, best-performing PacBio HiFi assemblers are Hifiasm and LJA. Next, the benchmarking using longer reads shows that the increased read length improves assembly quality, but the extent to which that can be achieved depends on the size and complexity of the reference genome.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbergiad100
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • benchmarking
  • de novo assembly
  • eukaryote genomes
  • third-generation sequencing


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