Published online : 1 April 2021
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Chromosome-level genome assembly of the humpback puffer, Tetraodon palembangensis
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Rui Zhang, Chang Li, Mengjun Yu, Xiaoyun Huang, Mengqi Zhang, Shanshan Liu, Shanshan Pan, Weizhen Xue, Congyan Wang, Chunyan Mao, He Zhang, Guangyi Fan, Chromosome-level genome assembly of the humpback puffer, Tetraodon palembangensis, Gigabyte, 1, 2021

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The humpback puffer, Tetraodon palembangensis, is a poisonous freshwater pufferfish species mainly distributed in Southeast Asia (Thailand, Laos, Malaysia and Indonesia). The humpback puffer has many interesting biological features, such as inactivity, tetrodotoxin production and body expansion. Here, we report the first chromosome-level genome assembly of the humpback puffer. The genome size is 362 Mb, with a contig N50 value of ∼1.78 Mb and a scaffold N50 value of ∼15.8 Mb. Based on this genome assembly, ∼61.5 Mb (18.11%) repeat sequences were identified, 19,925 genes were annotated, and the function of 90.01% of these genes could be predicted. Finally, a phylogenetic tree of ten teleost fish species was constructed. This analysis suggests that the humpback puffer and T. nigroviridis share a common ancestor 18.1 million years ago (MYA), and diverged from T. rubripes 45.8 MYA. The humpback puffer genome will be a valuable genomic resource to illustrate possible mechanisms of tetrodotoxin synthesis and tolerance.

GigaScience Press
Sha Tin, New Territories, Hong Kong SAR
Data description
Background and context
The humpback puffer, Tetraodon palembangensis (NCBI Taxonomy ID: 1820603, Fishbase ID: 25179), also known as Pao palembangensis, is widely distributed in Southeast Asia and prefers to live in alkalescent, warm (24–28°), and slow-flowing rivers (Figure 1a) [1]. The female and male humpback puffers have a similar body size, but the male’s rear hump is much bigger than that of the female [2]. The humpback puffer is a popular ornamental fish because of its beautiful skin colouration and patterns. Unlike other species of predatory pufferfish, the humpback puffer is lazy and will not initiatively look for food [1]. Furthermore, its body contains a deadly toxin, known as tetrodotoxin (TTX), and it can swell up to three times its normal size as a defense mechanism when threatened [1]. Previous studies have shown that the toxicity of the humpback puffer varies greatly between seasons [3]. The wild population of humpback puffer has declined in recent years owing to the destruction of suitable habitat caused by climate change and overfishing [4].
With these biological characteristics and a small genome size, the humpback puffer is an ideal species for genetic study [5]. It is also a species in the Fish10K Genome Project, a subproject of the Earth BioGenome Project, which aims to sample, sequence, assemble and analyse the genomes of 10,000 fish species [6]. In this study, we provide a chromosome-scale genome assembly of the humpback puffer. This assembly will be valuable for further study of mechanisms, such as tetrodotoxin synthesis and expansion defense. Comparative genomic analysis will help us to better understand the phylogenetic evolution and special gene families of the Tetraodontidae.
Figure 1.
Tetraodon palembangensis. (a) Photograph of Tetraodon palembangensis. Photo courtesy of Preston Swipe, Aquatic Arts LLC. (b) The 17-mer depth distribution of the stLFR reads. The estimated genome size is 385 Mb; heterozygosis is 0.21%.
All methods used to isolate DNA/RNA, construct libraries, and conduct genomic sequencing are available in a collection (Figure 2 [7]).
Figure 2. collection for the chromosome-level genome assembly of the humpback puffer, Tetraodon palembangensis.
Sample collection and sequencing
The sample (CNGB ID: CNS0224034) used in this study was an adult humpback puffer bought from the YueHe Flower-Bird-Fish market in Guangzhou Province, China. DNA and RNA were both isolated from blood following published protocols [8, 9]. Then, a paired-end single tube long fragment reads (stLFR) library and an RNA library were constructed according to the protocol published by Wang et al. [10]. A Hi-C library was constructed from blood according to the protocol published by Huang et al. [11]. These three libraries were then sequenced on the BGISEQ-500 platform (RRID:SCR_017979[12]. A Nanopore library was constructed with DNA isolated from blood using the QIAamp DNA Mini Kit (Qiagen) [13] and sequenced on the GridION platform (RRID:SCR_017986[14]. In total, we obtained 146 Gb (∼312×) raw stLFR data, 21 Gb raw RNA data, 19 GB (∼49×) raw Hi-C data, and 12 GB (∼32×) raw Nanopore data (Table 1).
Raw stLFR reads were subjected to quality control to improve the assembly quality. Firstly, we obtained co-barcoding information from the last 42 bases of read 1 and deleted the last 42 bases. Then SOAPnuke (v1.6.5, RRID:SCR_015025[15] was used to filter remaining reads, using the parameters: “–M 1 –d –A 0.4 –n 0.05 –l 10 –q 0.4 –Q 2 –G –5 0” [16]. Finally, 62 Gb (152×) clean data were retained for further assembly. Raw RNA reads were also filtered by SOAPnuke using the parameters: “–M 1 –A 0.4 –n 0.05 –l 10 –q 0.4 –Q 2 –G –5 0”, generating 20 Gb clean data. Raw Hi-C data were produced with a quality control using HiC-Pro (v. 2.8.0) [16] with default parameters. This generated 5.4 Gb validated data, which accounted for 28.81% of all data (Table 1).
Table 1
Statistics of sequencing data.
LibrariesRead lengths (bp)Raw dataValid data
Total bases (Gb) Sequencing depth (×)Total bases (Gb)Sequencing depth (×)
stFLR PE100 120.4311.69 62.6162.60
RNA PE 100 20.6 20.0
Hi-C PE 100 19.01 49.43 5.4 14.04
Nanopore CN50: 32 kb 12.3 31.98
Sequencing depth = total bases/genome size, where the genome size is the result of k-mer estimation in Table 2. Abbreviations: CN5, contig N50; PE, paired end.
Genome assembly
Table 2
Statistics of 17-mer analysis.
k-mer k-mer number k-mer depth (×)Heterozygosity (%)Genome size (bp)
1748,458,703,762 1260.205384,592,887
Jellyfish (v2.2.6, RRID:SCR_005491) was used to count k-17mers of all clean stLFR reads [17]. Genomescope [18] was used to estimate the humpback puffer genome size at about 385 Mb (Table 2 and Figure 1b).
The genome size, G, was defined as G = KnumKdepth, where the Knum is the total number of k-mers, and Kdepth is the most frequently occurring frequency.
To assemble the humpback puffer genome, we firstly converted the format of clean stLFR reads, then used Supernova (v. 2.0.1, RRID:SCR_016756) to perform the draft assembly. Then, we used GapCloser (v. 1.12, RRID:SCR_015026[19] to fill gaps with stLFR reads. To futher improve the assembly quality, TGSgapFiller [20] was then used to re-fill gaps with Nanopore reads, and Pilon (v. 1.22, RRID:SCR_014731[21] was used to polish the assembly twice. At this stage, the genome assembly was about 362 Mb, with 7.1-Mb scaffold N50 and 1.8-Mb contig N50 values (Table 3).
With the genome and validated Hi-C data from HiC-Pro, the contact matrix was generated by Juicer (v3, RRID:SCR_017226). Finally, we perfomed chromosomal-level scaffolding using the 3D de novo assembly (3D-DNA) pipeline (v. 170123) [22]. This anchored 91.2% of all sequences to 18 chromosomes, with a length ranging from 11 Mb to 35 Mb (Table 4 and Figure 3).
The karyotype differs among genuses in Tetraodontidae [2327]. For example, Takifugu rubripes, Takifugu obscurus and Takifugu flavidus have 2n = 44 chromosomes, while Tetraodon nigroviridis and Tetraodon fluviatilis have 2n = 42 chromosomes. In addition, Thamnaconus septentrionalis (Monacanthidae) has 2n = 40 chromosomes. Thus, we defined the chromosome number of the humpback puffer to be 18, according to the apparent and logical interactions by Hi-C reads.
Figure 3.
Heat map of chromosomal interaction from Hi-C reads. Grey lines show the border between chromosomes.
Table 3
Statistics of the draft assembly of the humpback puffer genome.
Statistics Scaffold Contig
Total number (#) 5291 6190
Total length (bp)361,704,206360,427,744
Gap (N) (bp) 1,276,462 0
Average length (bp) 68,362 58,227
N50 length (bp) 7,059,990 1,830,664
N90 length (bp) 453,057 157,209
Maximum length (bp) 19,534,197 9,842,180
Minimum length (bp) 682 48
GC content (%) 44.66 44.66
Table 4
Statistics of the Hi-C scaffolding of the humpback puffer genome.
Statistics Scaffold Contig
Total number (#) 5366 6435
Total length (bp)361,698,760360,427,744
Gap (N) (bp) 1,271,016 0
Average length (bp) 67,406 56,011
N50 length (bp) 15,808,960 1,794,775
N90 length (bp) 11,014,520 117,115
Maximum length (bp) 34,916,285 9,792,502
Minimum length (bp) 682 48
GC content (%) 44.66 44.66
Genomic annotation
Two methods were used to annotate repetitive sequences. Firstly, we aligned the genome to the Repbase library by TRF (v.4.09) [28]. RepeatMasker (v. 3.3.0, RRID:SCR_012954) and RepeatProteinMask (v. 3.3.0) [29] were then used to predict and classify the repetitive sequences. Secondly, we constructed a repeat library using RepeatModeler (v1.0.8, RRID:SCR_015027) and classified the transposable elements (TEs) with RepeatMasker (v. 3.3.0) [29]. The results of both methods were amalgamated to give a total of 65 Mb repeat sequences and 59 Mb TEs, accounting for 18.11% (Table 5 and Figure 4a) and 16.62% of the entire genome, respectively (Table 6 and Figure 4a).
Using the clean, reformatted stLFR reads, the mitochondrial genome of the humpback puffer was assembled using MitoZ [30] with default parameters. Mitochondrial genes were annotated using the MitoAnnotator tool of the mitofish pipeline [31] (Figure 4b). For gene structural annotation, we performed de novo prediction using AUGUSTUS (v3.1, RRID:SCR_008417[32], GlimmerHMM (v3.0.4, RRID:SCR_002654) [33], and Genscan (RRID:SCR_013362[34]. We also used TRINITY (v2.8.5, RRID:SCR_013048[35] to assemble a draft transcriptome with clean RNA reads, then HISAT2 (v2.1.0, RRID:SCR_015530)-StringTie (v1.3.4, RRID:SCR_016323[36] and PASA (v2.3.3, RRID:SCR_014656)-TransDecoder (RRID:SCR_017647[37] to predict transcripts. GeneWise (v2.4.1, RRID:SCR_015054[38] was used for homologous annotation, with protein data obtained from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) database for the following eight species: Danio rerio (NCBI, GenBank ID:50), Cynoglossus semilaevis (NCBI, GenBank ID:11788), Gasterosteus aculeatus (NCBI, GenBank ID:146), Gadus morhua (NCBI, GenBank ID:2661), Larimichthys crocea (NCBI, GenBank ID:12197), Oreochromis niloticus (NCBI, GenBank ID:197), Oryzias latipes (NCBI, GenBank ID:542), and Takifugu rubripes (NCBI, GenBank ID:63). Finally, these three types of evidence were integrated using EVidenceModeler (v1.1.1, RRID:SCR_014659[39], generating 19,925 nonredundant coding genes, each containing an average of 11 exons and a 1945 bp coding region (Table 7).
For gene function annotation, we aligned the 19,925 genes to the TrEMBL (UniProtKB, RRID:SCR_004426[40], Swissprot [41], Kyoto Enyclopedia of Genes and Genomes (KEGG, RRID:SCR_012773[42], Gene Ontology (GO, RRID:SCR_002811[43] and InterProScan (RRID:SCR_005829[44] databases. Overall, 90.1% of all genes were able to be functionally annotated (Table 8 and Figure 3).
Figure 4.
Annotation of the Tetraodon palembangensis genome. (a) Basic genomic elements of the genome. LTR, long terminal repeat; LINE, long interspersed nuclear elements; SINE, short interspersed elements. (b) Physical map of mitochondrial assembly.
Table 5
Statistics of repeat sequences.
TypeRepeat size (bp)% of genome
TRF 9,050,5712.52
RepeatMasker 34,142,5299.50
RepeatProteinMask 17,674,6604.92
De novo 57,492,865 16.00
Total 65,080,476 18.11
Table 6
Statistics of transposable elements (TEs).
TypeRepBase TEsTE proteins De novoCombined TEs
Length (bp)% of genomeLength (bp)% of genomeLength (bp)% of genomeLength (bp)% of genome
DNA 12,412,491 3.45 1,086,262 0.30 16,089,2194.48 22,470,3736.25
LINE 18,430,929 5.13 13,695,154 3.81 29,418,6218.19 33,421,7829.30
SINE 524,061 0.15 0 0.00 289,2520.08 789,0860.22
LTR 5,393,600 1.50 2,906,451 0.81 12,758,9343.55 15,803,0984.40
Other 8,290 0.00 228 0.00 00.00 8,5180.00
Unknown 0 0.00 0 0.00 3,202,7640.89 3,202,7640.89
Total 34,142,529 9.50 17,674,660 4.92 55,052,617 15.32 59,729,335 16.62
Abbreviations: LINE, long interspersed nuclear elements; LTR, long terminal repeats; SINE, short interspersed nuclear elements; TE, transposable elements.
Table 7
Statistics of the predicted genes in the humpback puffer genome.
Gene setGene numberAverage transcript length (bp)Average CDS length (bp)Average intron length (bp)Average exon length (bp)Average exons per gene
Homolog Cynoglossus semilaevis 19,686 9136.12 1715.14 856.1 177.4 9.67
Danio rerio 19,348 15,066.80 1577.39 1718.92 178.28 8.85
Gadus morhua 20,361 7040.85 1441.77 744.62 169.23 8.52
Gasterosteus aculeatus 26,630 6896.85 1474.53 686.88 165.79 8.89
Larimichthys crocea 21,220 9425.27 1690.06 902.2 176.53 9.57
Oreochromis niloticus 24,562 9494.62 1789.15 829.18 173.82 10.29
Oryzias latipes 23,332 8859.46 1467.62 962.5 169.08 8.68
Takifugu rubripes 19,635 7762.47 1645.04 707.22 170.47 9.65
De novo Augustus 21,662 7149.08 1725.00 659.42 186.98 9.23
Genscan 25,933 9855.53 1791.43 990.72 196.01 9.14
GlimmerHMM 99,722 1192.96 594.53 378.42 230.31 2.58
Transcript Pasa & Transdecoder 33,965 4856.71 1186.88 558.33 156.73 7.57
Hisat & Stringtie 31,664 5551.59 1303.52 608.39 163.3 7.98
EVM 19,925 9418.80 1945.48 757.65 179.08 10.86
The EVM gene set contains the integrated result of De novo gene predictions, homolog gene predictions and transcript annotation by EVM software.
Table 8
Statistics of the functional annotation.
DatabaseNumber of genesGene functionally annotated (%)
Total 20,057 100.00
SwissProt 17,33386.42
KEGG 16,18280.68
TrEMBL 18,03789.93
Interpro 17,10885.30
Overall 18,06490.06
Genome evolution
To study the evolutionary status of humpback puffer among bony fish species, we clustered gene families by alignment using protein sequences of the humpback puffer and nine other teleosts (Xiphophorus maculatus, Gasterosteus aculeatus, Sebastes schlegelii, Oryzias latipes, Gadus morhua, Oreochromis niloticus, Tetraodon nigroviridis, Danio rerio, and Takifugu rubripes) using the TreeFam v0.50 pipeline [45]. Protein-coding genes sequences for all of these species were downloaded from NCBI, except for S. schlegelii  [46], which was obtained from the China National Genebank Nucleotide Sequence Archive (CNSA; Accession ID: CNP0000222). To improve analysis quality, we removed genes either with frameshifts, or less than 50 amino acids, as well as redundant copies, only keeping the longest transcripts for comparative genomic analysis. A total of 21,022 gene families were identified, of which 40 gene families were unique to the humpback puffer (Table 9 and Figure 5a).
Of all 21,022 gene families, we identified 4461 single-copy protein-coding genes shared by all species. We used MUSCLE v3.8.31 [47] to align these orthologs, with default parameters. Then, the alignments were concatenated into a 3,584,782 amino acid “super alignment matrix”. Based on this matrix, a phylogenetic tree was constructed using RAxML v8.2.4 [48], with the best amino acid substitution model-JTT. Clade support was assessed using a bootstrapping algorithm with 1000 alignment replicates (Figure 5b). Next, we calculated the divergence time among these teleosts using the MCMCTree tool included in PAML (v4.7a, RRID:SCR_014932[49], with parameters of “–rootage 500 -clock 3 -alpha 0.431879”. The fossil correction time (Table 10) was obtained from Timetree [50]. The result showed that the humpback puffer and T. nigroviridis, two species belonging to the same genus, shared a common ancestor 18.1 millon years ago (MYA) and diverged from T. rubripes 18.1 MYA (Figure 5b).
Figure 5.
Comparative analysis of the Tetraodon palembangensis and nine teleosts. (a) Clustering of gene families. (b) Phylogenetic tree constructed with the single-copy gene families. The fossil correction nodes in the tree are highlighted by red dots.
Table 9
Statistics of gene family clustering.
SpeciesTotal number of genesNumber of unclustered genesNumber of gene familiesNumber of unique familiesAverage number of genes per family
D. rerio 30,067 2171 18,635 735 1.5
G. aculeatus 20,756 728 15,995 11 1.25
G. morhua 19,987 525 15,650 11 1.24
S. schlegelii 24,094 558 16,991 30 1.39
O. latipes 19,535 984 14,873 71 1.25
O. niloticus 21,431 160 15,811 13 1.35
T. nigroviridis 19,544 805 14,916 50 1.26
T. palembangensis 19,796 690 15,830 40 1.21
T. rubripes 18,459 207 14,733 6 1.24
X. maculatus 20,356 271 16,446 3 1.22
Table 10
Fossil correction time used in divergence analysis.
Taxon 1 Taxon 2Fossil time (MYA)Minimum (MYA)Maximum (MYA)
Takifugu rubripes Tetraodon nigroviridis 52 42 59
Takifugu rubripes Gadus morhua 148 141 170
Oryzias latipes Xiphophorus maculatus 93 76 111
Oryzias latipes Gasterosteus aculeatus 128 105 154
Oryzias latipes Danio rerio 229.9 204.5 255.3
Data validation and quality control
To demonstrate the quality of genome assembly and gene set, we performed a qulity evaluation using the actinopterygii_odb10 database from Benchmarking Universal Single-Copy Orthologs (BUSCO v.4.1.2, RRID:SCR_015008[51]. The results showed that 95.7% and 90.7% complete BUSCOs were covered by the genome assembly and gene set, respectively (Table 11).
Table 11
Statistics of the BUSCO assessment.
Types of BUSCOsGenome assemblyGene set
NumberPercentage (%)NumberPercentage (%)
Complete BUSCOs 3486 95.7 3303 90.7
Complete and single-copy BUSCOs 3427 94.1 3252 89.3
Complete and duplicated BUSCOs 59 1.6 51 1.4
Fragmented BUSCOs 45 1.2 96 2.6
Missing BUSCOs 109 3.1 241 6.7
Total BUSCOs groups searched 3640 100 3640 100
Reuse potential
We assembled the first annotated chromosome-level genome of the humpback puffer. These resources will be helpful to study the mechanism of body expansion displayed by this fish species, the synthesis mechanism and treatment of tetrodotoxin, as well as the evolution of freshwater puffer. Futhermore, the humpback puffer genome will fill a gap missing from the Fish 10K program and in the phylogenetic tree of life.
Data availability
We have deposited the project at CNGB Nucleotide Sequence Archive (CNSA) where the accession ID is CNP0001025. The genomic data can be obtained in GigaScience Database [52]. The sequencing data have been deposited at National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) where the bioproject accession ID is PRJNA597275.
List of abbreviations
bp: base pair; BUSCO: Benchmarking Universal Single-Copy Orthologs; CNSA: China National Gene Bank Nucleotide Sequence Archive; Gb: gigabase; GO: Gene Ontology; kb: kilobase; KEGG: Kyoto Enyclopedia of Genes and Genomes; Mb: megabase; ML: Maximum Likelihood; NCBI: National Center for Biotechnology Information; stLFR: single tube long fragment reads; TE: transposable element.
Ethical approval
All resources used in this study were approved by the Institutional Review Board of BGI (IRB approval No. FT17007). This experiment has passed the ethics audit of Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI) Gene Bioethics and Biosecurity Review Committee.
Consent for publication
Not applicable.
Competing interests
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
This work was supported by the special funding of “Blue granary” scientific and technological innovation of China (2018YFD0900301-05).
Authors’ Contributions
H.Z. and G.F. designed this project. M.Z. prepared the samples. S.L., S.P., W.X., C.W. and C.M. conducted the experiments. R.Z., C.L., M.Y. and X.H. did the analyses. R.Z., C.L. and M.Y. wrote and revised the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final version of the manuscript.
We thank for the China National Genebank for technical support in constructing and sequencing the stLFR library.
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