Microbial 'omics

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anvi-estimate-metabolism [program]

Table of Contents

Reconstructs metabolic pathways and estimates pathway completeness for a given set of contigs.

See program help menu or go back to the main page of anvi’o programs and artifacts.

Can provide


Can consume

contigs-db kegg-data kegg-functions profile-db collection bin external-genomes internal-genomes metagenomes


anvi-estimate-metabolism predicts the metabolic capabilities of organisms based on their genetic content. It relies upon kegg-functions and metabolism information from the KEGG resource, which is stored in a modules-db.

The metabolic pathways that this program currently considers are those defined by KOs in the KEGG MODULE resource. Each KO represents a gene function, and a KEGG module is a set of KOs that collectively carry out the steps in a metabolic pathway. Therefore, for this to work, you need to have annotated your contigs-db with hits to the KEGG KOfam database by running anvi-run-kegg-kofams prior to using this program.

Given a properly annotated contigs-db, this program determines which KOs are present and from those determines the completeness of each KEGG module. The results are described in a set of output text files, collectively referred to as kegg-metabolism.

Running metabolism estimation on a single contigs database

There are several possible inputs to this program. For single genomes (isolate genomes or MAGs, for example) you can provide a contigs-db. If your contigs-db describes a metagenome rather than a single genome, you can provide the flag --metagenome-mode. In metagenome mode, estimation is run on each contig individually - that is, only KOfam hits within the same contig are allowed to contribute to the completeness score of a given KEGG module. Alternatively, if you have binned your metagenome sequences into separate populations and would like metabolism estimation to be run separately on each bin, you can provide a profile-db and a collection.

This program always takes one or more contigs database(s) as input, but what is in those contigs dbs depends on the context (ie, genome, metagenome, bin). In the case of internal genomes (or bins), is possible to have multiple inputs but only one input contigs db. So for clarity’s sake, we sometimes refer to the inputs as ‘samples’ in the descriptions below. If you are getting confused, just try to remember that a ‘sample’ can be a genome, a metagenome, or a bin.

Estimation for a single genome

anvi-estimate-metabolism -c CONTIGS.db

Estimation for a metagenome

anvi-estimate-metabolism -c CONTIGS.db --metagenome-mode

In metagenome mode, this program will estimate metabolism for each contig in the metagenome separately. This will tend to underestimate module completeness because it is likely that some modules will be broken up across multiple contigs belonging to the same population. If you prefer to instead treat all KOs in the metagenome as belonging to one collective genome, you can do so by simply leaving out the --metagenome-mode flag (to effectively pretend that you are doing estimation for a single genome, although in your heart you will know that your contigs database really contains a metagenome). Please note that this will result in the opposite tendency to overestimate module completeness (as the KOs will in reality be coming from multiple different populations), and there will be a lot of redundancy. We are working on improving our estimation algorithm for metagenome mode. In the meantime, if you are worried about the misleading results from either of these situations, we suggest binning your metagenomes first and running estimation for the bins as described below.

Estimation for bins in a metagenome

You can estimate metabolism for each bin in a collection:

anvi-estimate-metabolism -c CONTIGS.db -p PROFILE.db -C COLLECTION_NAME

You can also provide a specific bin in that collection to run on:

anvi-estimate-metabolism -c CONTIGS.db -p PROFILE.db -C COLLECTION_NAME -b BIN_NAME

Or, you can provide a specific list of bins in a text file:

anvi-estimate-metabolism -c CONTIGS.db -p PROFILE.db -C COLLECTION_NAME -B bin_ids.txt

Each line in the bin_ids.txt file should be a bin name from the collection.

MULTI-MODE: Running metabolism estimation on multiple contigs databases

If you have a set of contigs databases of the same type (i.e., all of them are single genomes or all are binned metagenomes), you can analyze them all at once. What you need to do is put the relevant information for each contigs-db into a text file and pass that text file to anvi-estimate-metabolism. The program will then run estimation individually on each contigs database in the file. The estimation results for each database will be aggregated and printed to the same output file(s).

Estimation for multiple single genomes

Multiple single genomes (also known as external-genomes) can be analyzed with the same command by providing an external genomes file to anvi-estimate-metabolism. To see the required format for the external genomes file, see external-genomes.

anvi-estimate-metabolism -e external-genomes.txt

Estimation for multiple metagenomes

Multiple metagenomes can be analyzed with the same command by providing a metagenomes input file. Metagenome mode will be used to analyze each contigs database in the file. To see the required format for the metagenomes file, see metagenomes.

anvi-estimate-metabolism -M metagenomes.txt

Estimation for multiple bins in different metagenomes

If you have multiple bins (also known as internal-genomes) across different collections or even different metagenomes, they can be analyzed with the same command by providing an internal genomes file to anvi-estimate-metabolism. To see the required format for the internal genomes file, see internal-genomes.

anvi-estimate-metabolism -i internal-genomes.txt

Adjusting module completion threshold

KEGG module completeness is computed as the percentage of steps in the metabolic pathway that are ‘present’ based on the KOs found in the contigs database. If this completeness is larger than a certain percentage, then the entire module is considered to be ‘present’ in the genome or metagenome. By default, this module completion threshold is 0.75; that is, 75 percent of the KOs in a module must have a KOfam hit in the contigs database in order for the module to be considered ‘complete’ as a whole. This threshold can be adjusted.

Changing the module completion threshold

In this example, we change the threshold to 50 percent.

anvi-estimate-metabolism -c CONTIGS.db --module-completion-threshold 0.5

Working with a non-default KEGG data directory

If you have previously annotated your contigs databases using a non-default KEGG data directory with --kegg-data-dir (see anvi-run-kegg-kofams), or have moved the KEGG data directory that you wish to use to a non-default location, then you will need to specify where to find the KEGG data so that this program can use the right one. In that case, this is how you do it:

anvi-estimate-metabolism -c CONTIGS.db --kegg-data-dir /path/to/directory/KEGG

Controlling output

anvi-estimate-metabolism can produce a variety of output files. All will be prefixed with the same string, which by default is “kegg-metabolism”.

Changing the output file prefix

anvi-estimate-metabolism -c CONTIGS.db -O my-cool-prefix

Including only complete modules in the output

Remember that module completion threshold? Well, you can use that to control which modules make it into your output files. If you provide the --only-complete flag, then any module-related output files will only include modules that have a completeness score at or above the module completion threshold. (This doesn’t affect KO-related outputs, for obvious reasons.)

Here is an example of using this flag with long format output (which is the default, as described below, but we are asking for it explicitly here just to be clear):

anvi-estimate-metabolism -c CONTIGS.db --kegg-output-modes modules --only-complete

And here is an example of using this flag with matrix output. In this case, we are working with multiple input samples, and the behavior of this flag is slightly different: a module will be included in the matrix if it is at or above the module completion threshold in at least one sample. If there are any samples in which that module’s completeness is below the threshold, its completeness in that sample will be represented by a 0.0 in the matrix, regardless of its actual completeness score.

anvi-estimate-metabolism -i internal-genomes.txt --matrix-format --only-complete

Output options

This program has two major output options: long format (tab-delimited) output files and matrices.

Long Format Output

Long format output has several preset “modes” as well as a “custom” mode in which the user can define the contents of the output file. Multiple modes can be used at once, and each requested “mode” will result in a separate output file. The default output mode is “modules” mode.

You can find more details on the output format by looking at kegg-metabolism.

Viewing available output modes

anvi-estimate-metabolism -c CONTIGS.db --list-available-modes

Using a non-default output mode

anvi-estimate-metabolism -c CONTIGS.db --kegg-output-modes kofam_hits

Using multiple output modes

anvi-estimate-metabolism -c CONTIGS.db --kegg-output-modes kofam_hits,modules

Viewing available output headers for ‘custom’ mode

anvi-estimate-metabolism -c CONTIGS.db --list-available-output-headers

Using custom output mode

Here is an example of defining the modules output to contain columns with the module number, the module name, and the completeness score.

anvi-estimate-metabolism -c CONTIGS.db --kegg-output-modes modules_custom --custom-output-headers kegg_module,module_name,module_is_complete

Including modules with 0% completeness in long-format output

By default, modules with a completeness score of 0 are left out of the output files to save on space. But you can explicitly include them by adding the --include-zeros flag.

anvi-estimate-metabolism -c CONTIGS.db --kegg-output-modes modules --include-zeros

Including coverage and detection in long-format output

If you have a profile database associated with your contigs database and you would like to include coverage and detection data in the metabolism estimation output files, you can use the --add-coverage flag.

anvi-estimate-metabolism -c CONTIGS.db -p PROFILE.db --kegg-output-modes modules,kofam_hits_in_modules --add-coverage

For kofam_hits_in_modules mode output files, in which each row contains one KOfam hit, the output will contain two additional columns (per sample in the profile database), one of which contains the mean coverage of that particular gene call by reads from that sample and the other which contains the detection of that gene in the sample.

For modules mode output files, in which each row contains a KEGG module, the output will contain four additional columns (per sample in the profile database). One column will contain comma-separated mean coverage values for each gene call in the module, in the same order as the corresponding gene calls in the gene_caller_ids_in_module column. Another column will contain the average of these gene coverage values, which represents the average coverage of the entire module. Likewise, the third and fourth columns will contain comma-separated detection values for each gene call and the average detection, respectively.

Note that you can customize which coverage/detection columns are in the output files if you use custom modules mode. Use the following command to find out which coverage/detection headers are available:

anvi-estimate-metabolism -c CONTIGS.db -p PROFILE.db --add-coverage --list-available-output-headers

Matrix Output

Matrix format is only available when working with multiple contigs databases. Several output matrices will be generated, each of which describes one statistic such as module completion score, module presence/absence, or KO hit counts. Rows will describe modules or KOs, columns will describe your input samples (ie genomes, metagenomes, bins), and each cell of the matrix will be the corresponding statistic for a module in a sample. You can see examples of this output format by viewing kegg-metabolism.

Obtaining matrix-formatted output

anvi-estimate-metabolism -i internal-genomes.txt --matrix-format

Including KEGG metadata in the matrix output

By default, the matrix output is a matrix ready for use in other computational applications, like visualizing as a heatmap or performing clustering. But you may want to instead have a matrix that is annotated with more information, like the names and categories of each module or the functional annotations of each KO. To include this additional information in the matrix output (as columns that occur before the sample columns), use the --include-metadata flag.

anvi-estimate-metabolism -i internal-genomes.txt --matrix-format --include-metadata

Note that this flag only works for matrix output because, well, the long-format output inherently includes KEGG metadata.

Note also that you can combine this flag with the --only-complete flag, like so:

anvi-estimate-metabolism -i internal-genomes.txt --matrix-format --only-complete --include-metadata

Including rows of all zeros in the matrix output The --include-zeros flag works for matrix output, too. By default, modules that have 0 completeness or KOs that have 0 hits in every input sample will be left out of the matrix files. Using --include-zeros results in the inclusion of these items.

anvi-estimate-metabolism -i internal-genomes.txt --matrix-format --include-zeros

Getting module-specific KO hit matrices The standard KO hit matrix includes all KOfams that were annotated at least once in your input databases (or all KOfams that we know about, if --include-zeros). But sometimes you might want to see a matrix with only the KOs from a particular module. To do this, pass a comma-separated list of KEGG module numbers to this flag, and then your matrix output will include KO hit matrices for each module in the list.

For example,

anvi-estimate-metabolism -e input_txt_files/external_genomes.txt \ --matrix-format \ --module-specific-matrices M00001,M00009 \ -O external_genomes

will produce the output files external_genomes-M00001_ko_hits-MATRIX.txt and external_genomes-M00009_ko_hits-MATRIX.txt (in addition to the typical output matrices). Each additional output matrix will include one row for each KO in the module, in the order it appears in the module definition. It will also include comment lines for each major step (or set of steps) in the module definition, to help with interpreting the output.

Check out this (partial) example for module M00001:

KO	isolate	E_faecalis_6240	test_2
# (K00844,K12407,K00845,K00886,K08074,K00918)
K00844	0	0	0
K12407	0	0	0
K00845	0	1	0
K00886	1	0	1
K08074	0	0	0
K00918	0	0	0
# (K01810,K06859,K13810,K15916)
K01810	1	1	1
K06859	0	0	0
K13810	0	0	0
K15916	0	0	0
# (K00850,K16370,K21071,K00918)
K00850	0	1	0
K16370	0	0	0
K21071	0	0	0
K00918	0	0	0

If you don’t want those comment lines in there, you can combine this with the --no-comments to get a clean matrix. This might be useful if you want to do some downstream processing of the matrices.

anvi-estimate-metabolism -e input_txt_files/external_genomes.txt \ --matrix-format \ --module-specific-matrices M00001,M00009 \ --no-comments \ -O external_genomes

Testing this program

You can see if this program is working by running the following suite of tests, which will check several common use-cases:

anvi-self-test --suite metabolism

Help! I’m getting version errors!

If you have gotten an error that looks something like this:

Config Error: The contigs DB that you are working with has been annotated with a different version of the MODULES.db than you are working with now.

This means that the MODULES.db used by anvi-run-kegg-kofams has different contents (different KOs and/or different modules) than the one you are currently using to estimate metabolism, which would lead to mismatches if metabolism estimation were to continue. There are a few ways this can happen, which of course have different solutions:

  1. You annotated your contigs-db with a former version of kegg-data, and subsequently set up a new anvi-setup-kegg-kofams (probably with the --kegg-archive or --download-from-kegg options, which get you a non-default version of KEGG data). Then you tried to run anvi-estimate-metabolism with the new kegg-data version. If this is you, and you have saved your former version of kegg-data somewhere, then you are in luck - you can simply direct anvi-estimate-metabolism to use the old version of KEGG with --kegg-data-dir. If you didn’t save it, then unfortunately you will most likely have to re-run anvi-run-kegg-kofams on your contigs-db to re-annotate it with the new version before continuing with metabolism estimation.
  2. You have multiple versions of kegg-data on your computer in different locations, and you used different ones for anvi-run-kegg-kofams and anvi-estimate-metabolism. If this is what you did, then there is an easy fix - simply find the KEGG data directory containing the MODULES.db with the same content hash (you can use anvi-db-info on the MODULES.db to find the hash value) as the one used by anvi-run-kegg-kofams and submit that location with --kegg-data-dir to this program.
  3. Your collaborator gave you some databases that they annotated with a different version of kegg-data than you have on your computer. In this case, either you or they (or both) has probably set up a non-default version of kegg-data. If they were using the default snapshot of KEGG data but you are not, then you’ll need to get that version onto your computer using the default usage of anvi-setup-kegg-kofams. Otherwise, your collaborator will need to somehow share all or part of their KEGG data directory with you before you can work on their databases. See anvi-setup-kegg-kofams for details on how to share non-default setups of kegg-data.

Technical Details

What data is used for estimation?

Regardless of which input type is provided to this program, the basic requirements for metabolism estimation are 1) a set of metabolic pathway definitions, and 2) a ‘pool’ of gene annotations.

Module Definitions

Currently, the only option for metabolic pathway definitions that is available to this program is the KEGG MODULE resource. The program anvi-setup-kegg-kofams acquires the definitions of these modules using the KEGG API and puts them into the modules-db. The definitions are strings of KEGG Ortholog (KO) identifiers, representing the functions necessary to carry out each step of the metabolic pathway. Let’s use module M00018, Threonine Biosynthesis, as an example. Here is the module definition, in picture form:

Module M00018 Definition

This biosynthesis pathway has five steps, or chemical reactions. The first reaction in the pathway requires an aspartate kinase enzyme (also known as a homoserine dehydrogenase), and there are four possible orthologs known to encode this function: K00928, K12524, K12525, or K12526. Only one of these genes is required to be able to carry out this step. In contrast, the second reaction can be fulfilled by only one known KO, the aspartate-semialdehyde dehydrogenase K00133.

The definition string for module M00018 is this:

(K00928,K12524,K12525,K12526) K00133 (K00003,K12524,K12525) (K00872,K02204,K02203) K01733

Hopefully the correspondence between the picture and text is clear - spaces separate distinct steps in the pathway, while commas separate alternatives.

That was a simple example, so let’s look at a more complicated one: M00011, the second carbon oxidation phase of the citrate cycle.

Module M00011 Definition

This pathway also has five steps, but this time, most of the reactions require an enzyme complex. Each KO within a multi-KO box is a component of an enzyme. For example, one option for the first reaction is 2-oxoglutarate dehydrogenase, a 3-component enzyme made up of K00164, K00658, and K00382.

This is the definition string for module M00011:

(K00164+K00658+K00382,K00174+K00175-K00177-K00176) (K01902+K01903,K01899+K01900,K18118) (K00234+K00235+K00236+K00237,K00239+K00240+K00241-(K00242,K18859,K18860),K00244+K00245+K00246-K00247) (K01676,K01679,K01677+K01678) (K00026,K00025,K00024,K00116)

And here is a detail that is difficult to tell from the pictorial definition - not all enzyme components are equally important. You can see in the definition string that KO components of an enzyme are connected with either ‘+’ signs or ‘-‘ signs. The ‘+’ sign indicates that the following KO is an essential component of the enzyme, while the ‘-‘ sign indicates that it is non-essential. For the purposes of module completeness estimation, we only consider a reaction to be fulfilled if all the essential component KOs are present in the annotation pool (and we don’t care about the ‘non-essential’ components). So, for example, we would consider the first step in this pathway complete if just K00174 and K00175 were present. The presence/absence of either K00177 or K00176 would not affect the module completeness score at all.

Module definitions can be even more complex than this. Both of these examples had exactly five steps, no matter which set of KOs you use to fulfill each reaction. However, in some modules, there can be alternative sets with different numbers of steps. In addition, some modules (such as M00611, the module representing photosynthesis), are made up of other modules, in which case they are only complete if their component modules are complete.

Hopefully this information will help you understand our estimation strategies in the next section.

KOfam annotations

For metabolism estimation to work properly, gene identifiers in the pool of annotations must match to the gene identifiers used in the pathway definitions. For KEGG MODULEs, we rely on annotations from the KEGG KOfam database, which is a set of HMM profiles for KEGG Orthologs (KOs). The program anvi-run-kegg-kofams can annotate your contigs-db with hits to the KEGG KOfam database. It adds these annotations under the source name ‘KOfam’.

Which of the annotations are considered for metabolism estimation depends on the input context. If you are working with isolate genomes (ie, not metagenome mode or bins), then all of the annotations under source ‘KOfam’ will be used. If you are working with bins in metagenomes, then for each bin, only the ‘KOfam’ annotations that are present in that bin will be in the annotation pool. Finally, for metagenome mode, since estimation is done for each contig separately, only the annotations present in each contig will be considered at a time.

How is the module completeness score calculated?

For demonstration purposes, let’s talk through the estimation of module completeness for one module, in one ‘sample’ (ie a genome, bin, or contig in a metagenome). Just keep in mind that the steps described below are followed for each module in each sample.

Step 1: Unrolling module definitions

As you saw above in the module examples, there can be multiple alternative KOs for a given step in a pathway. This means that there can be more than one way to have a ‘complete’ metabolic module. Therefore, to estimate completeness, we first have to identify all possible ‘paths’ through the module definition, where a ‘path’ is a set of KOs that could make the module complete (if they were all present in the annotation pool).

anvi-estimate-metabolism uses a recursive algorithm to “unroll” the module definition string into a list of all possible paths. First, the definition string is split into its component steps (which are separated by spaces). Each step is either an atomic step, a protein complex (KO components separated by ‘+’ or ‘-‘), or a compound step (multiple alternatives, separated by commas). Compound steps and protein complexes are recursively broken down until we have only atomic steps. An atomic step can be a single KO, a module number, a nonessential KO starting with ‘-‘, or ‘–’ (a string indicating that there is a reaction for which we do not have a KO). We use the atomic steps to build a list of alternative paths through the module definition. Protein complexes are split into their respective components using this strategy to find all possible alternative complexes, and then these complexes (with all their component KOs) are used to build the alternative paths.

Let’s see this in action, using the Threonine Biosynthesis module from above as an example. We first split the definition on spaces to get all component steps. Here we show each component step on its own line:


The first step is made up of 4 alternative KOs. We split on the commas to get these, and thus we have the starting KO for 4 possible alternative paths:

K00928  K12524  K12525  K12526
  |       |       |       |

The second step, K00133, is already an atomic step, so we can simply extend each of the paths with this KO:

K00928  K12524  K12525  K12526
  |       |       |       |
K00133  K00133  K00133  K00133

The third step is another compound step, but this time we can get 3 atomic steps out of it. That means that our 4 possible paths so far each gets 3 alternatives, bringing our total alternative path count up to 12:

       K00928                K12524                K12525                K12526
         |                     |                     |                     |
       K00133                K00133                K00133                K00133
      /  |   \              /  |   \              /  |   \              /  |   \
K00003 K12524 K12525  K00003 K12524 K12525  K00003 K12524 K12525  K00003 K12524 K12525

Okay, hopefully you get the picture by now. The end result is a list of lists, like this:


in which every inner list is one of the alternative paths through the module definition - one of the possible ways to have a complete module.

By the way, here is one alternative path from the module M00011, just so you know what these look like with protein complexes:


Step 2: Marking steps complete

Once we have our list of alternative paths through the module, the next task is to compute the completeness of each path. Each alternative path is a list of atomic steps or protein complexes. We loop over every step in the path and use the annotation pool of KOs to decide whether the step is complete (1) or not (0). We have the following cases to handle:

  1. A single KO - this is easy. If we have an annotation for this KO in our pool of ‘KOfam’ annotations, then the step is complete. (In our current implementation, we don’t pay attention to multiple annotations of the same KO - we only care if there is at least one.)

  2. A protein complex - remember that these are multiple KOs connected with ‘+’ (if they are essential components) or ‘-‘ (if they are non-essential)? Well, for these steps, we compute a fractional completeness based on the number of essential components that are present in the annotation pool. We basically ignore the non-essential KOs. For example, the complex ‘K00174+K00175-K00177-K00176’ would be considered 50% complete (a score of 0.5) if only ‘K00174’ were present in the annotation pool.

  3. Non-essential KOs - some KOs are marked as non-essential even when they are not part of a protein complex. They look like this: ‘-K12420’, with a minus sign in front of the KO identifier (that particular example comes from module M00778). These steps are ignored for the purposes of computing module completeness.

  4. Steps without associated KOs - some reactions do not have a KO identifier, but instead there is the string ‘–’ serving as a placeholder in the module definition. Since we can’t annotate the genes required for these steps, we have no idea if they are complete or not, so we always consider them incomplete. Modules that have steps like this can therefore never have 100% completeness - it is sad, but what can we do? We warn the user about these instances so that they can check manually for any missing steps.

  5. Modules - finally, some modules are defined by other modules. We can’t determine if these steps are complete until we’ve estimated completeness for every module, so we ignore these for now.

We add up the completeness of each essential step and divide by the number of essential steps to get the completeness score for a given path through the module.

Step 3: Module completeness

By this time, we have a completeness score (a fraction between 0 and 1) for every possible path through the module. To get the completeness score for the module overall, we simply take the maximum of all these completeness scores.

We can then check this number against the module completeness threshold (which is 0.75 by default). If the module completeness score is greater than or equal to the threshold, we mark the module as ‘complete’. This boolean value is meant only as a way to easily filter through the modules output, and you shouldn’t put too much stock in it because it covers up a lot of nuances, as you can tell from the details above :).

Step 4: Adjusting completeness

But don’t forget that there are some modules defined by other modules. These are usually what KEGG calls ‘Signature Modules’, which are collections of KOs that collectively encode some phenotype, rather than a typical pathway of chemical reactions. For these modules, we have to go back and adjust the completeness score after we know the completeness of its component modules. To do this, we basically re-do the previous two tasks to recompute the number of complete steps in each path and the overall completeness of the module. This time, when we reach a ‘Module’ atomic step (case 5), we take that module’s fractional completeness score to be the completeness of the step.

As an example, consider module M00618, the Acetogen signature module. Its definition is

M00377 M00579

Suppose module M00377 had a completeness score of 0.7 and module M00579 had a score of 0.4, based on the prior estimations. Then the completeness score of the [M00377,M00579] path would be (0.7+0.4)/2 = 0.55. Since this is the only possible path through the module, M00618 is 55% complete.


For those who prefer the less long-winded approach: module completeness in a given sample is calculated as the maximum fraction of essential KOs that are annotated in the sample, where the maximum is taken over all possible sets of KOs from the module definition.

Edit this file to update this information.

Additional Resources

Are you aware of resources that may help users better understand the utility of this program? Please feel free to edit this file on GitHub. If you are not sure how to do that, find the __resources__ tag in this file to see an example.