1. Mark Howison
  2. seqdb




SeqDB is a file format, compressor and storage tool for the raw data produced by Next-Generation Sequencing platforms like the Illumina HiSeq 2000 and MiSeq and the Life Technologies Ion Torrent PGM.

SeqDB offers high-throughput compression of sequence data with similar compression ratios to gzip. It achieves this by combining the existing multi-threaded Blosc compressor with a new data-parallel byte-packing scheme, called SeqPack, which interleaves sequence data and quality scores.

For help with configuring, building, and installing SeqDB, see INSTALL. Both the source code and compiled binaries for CentOS 6.4 and OS X Mavericks are provided on the Downloads page.

For an example of how to use SeqDB, see the TUTORIAL.

If you plan to use SeqDB as a long term archival format for your data, we strongly recommend you verify the FASTQ output from SeqDB against your original FASTQ file. This is easy to do in UNIX with:

$ seqdb extract my.seqdb | diff -q - original.fastq

If this comand returns:

Files my.seqdb and original.fastq differ

then the data was not stored correctly, possible because of some of the issues described next. Otherwise, your SeqDB file is good.

In general, you should make sure that your input FASTQ meets the requirements of SeqDB:

  • The input sequences can only have the characters A, T, C, G or N. Any other character will not be stored correctly, e.g. you must convert lower-case to upper-case.
  • The quality scores must be in encoded as Phred+33.
  • The quality scores must lie in the range from 0 to 50 (Phred+33 characters '!' through 'S'). For Illumina data in the CASAVA 1.8 format, the range is already limited to 0 to 41.

WARNING for Ion Torrent data: there is a known bug with Torrent Suite v3.0 that generates suspiciously high quality scores (62) at the start of reads that begin with a G base. This lies outside of the quality score range that SeqDB can correctly store, and you need to first sanitize the data with a command like:

$ sed 's/^_/H/' < dodgy.fastq > fixed.fastq

More information is available from this blog.

SeqDB version 0.1.X can store variable-length IDs, but it doesn't correctly store variable-length sequences.

SeqDB is not designed to handle color space sequences, e.g. the CSFASTQ format for storing AB SOLiD data.


Mark Howison mhowison@brown.edu

For support or bug reports, please create an issue at Bitbucket.


Howison M. 2013. High-throughput compression of FASTQ data with SeqDB. IEEE/ACM Transactions on Computational Biology and Bioinformatics, 10(1): 213--218. doi:10.1109/TCBB.2012.160 (pdf)


Copyright 2011-2014, Brown University, Providence, RI. All Rights Reserved.

See LICENSES/SEQDB.txt for full terms of use.

SeqDB includes source code from BLOSC 1.1.5 (see LICENSES/BLOSC.txt, LICENSES/FASTLZ.txt, and LICENSES/H5PY.txt for full terms of use).