How to install and run pbalign

pbalign is a tool for aligning PacBio reads to reference sequences. It is part of the PacBio Bioinformatics tools, and will be bundled in the 2.1 release of SMRTanalysis. You may also follow the instructions below to install pbalign.

Note: the pseudo namespace pbtools has been removed in version 0.2.0.

Note: program name has been changed from `` in version 0.1.0 to `pbalign` in version 0.2.0.

Note: please install this software on an isolated machine that does not have SMRTanalysis installed.


pbalign aligns PacBio reads to reference sequences, filters aligned reads according to user-specific filtering criteria, and converts the output to either the SAM format or PacBio Compare HDF5 (e.g., .cmp.h5) format. The output Compare HDF5 file will be compatible with Quiver if --forQuiver option is specified.

Required software

pbalign is available through the pbalign script from the pbalign package. To use pbalign, the following PacBio software is required,

  • pbalign, containing pbalign
  • pbcore, a package providing access to PacBio data files
  • blasr, a package of PacBio aligner blasr, containing c++ executables for processing PacBio data, such as blasr, pls2fasta, samFilter, samtoh5 and loadPulses

The following software is optionally required if --forQuiver option will be used to convert the output Compare HDF5 file to be compatible with Quiver. - pbh5tools.cmph5tools, a PacBio Bioinformatics tools that manipulates Compare HDF5 files. - h5repack, a HDF5 tool to compress and repack HDF5 files.

The default aligner that pbalign uses is blasr. If you want to use bowtie2 as aligner, then the bowtie2 package also needs to be installed.

Required libraries and tools

  • Python 2.7.3
  • virtualenv (builds isolated Python environments)
  • numpy 1.6.1 (required by pbcore)
  • h5py 2.0.1 (required by pbcore)

If you are within PacBio, these requirements are already installed within the cluster environment.

Otherwise, you will need to install them yourself.

Data file requirements

pbalign distinguishes input and output file formats by file extensions.

The input PacBio reads can be in FASTA, Base HDF5, Pulse HDF5, Circular Consensus Sequence (CCS) HDF5 or file or file names (FOFN). The supported input file extensions are as follows.

  • FASTA : .fa or .fasta
  • PacBio BASE HDF5 : .bas.h5 or .bax.h5
  • PacBio PULSE HDF5 : .pls.h5 or .plx.h5
  • PacBio CCS HDF5 : .ccs.h5
  • File of file names : .fofn

The input reference sequences can be in a FASTA file or a reference deposit directory created by referenceUploader (a PacBio tool for uploading references to the server and data preprocessing).

The output file can either be a SAM file or a Compare HDF5 file. The output Compare HDF5 file cannot be consumed by Quiver directly unleis --forQuiver option is specified. The supported output file extensions are as follows.

  • SAM : .sam
  • PacBio Compare HDF5: .cmp.h5

Manual installation instructions

Step 1: Set up your Python virtual environment

To install Python 2.7, please visit

, or if you have root permission on Ubuntu, execute

sudo apt-get install python

To install pip, please visit

, or if you have root permission using Ubuntu, execute

sudo apt-get install python-pip

To install virtualenv, please visit

, or execute

pip install virtualenv

To set up a new virtualenv, do

$ cd; virtualenv -p python2.7 --no-site-packages my_env

, and activate the virtualenv using

$ source ~/my_env/bin/activate

To install git, please visit

Step 2: Install required software and library

To install blasr, please execute

$ git clone

, and follow instructions at

Before installing pbcore, you may need to install numpy and h5py from

, or if you have root permission on Ubuntu, do

$ git install numpy
$ sudo apt-get install libhdf5-serial-dev
$ git install h5py

To install pbcore, execute

$ pip install git+

Step 3: Install optionally required software and library

To install pbh5tools, execute

$ pip install git+

To install HDF5 tools, visit

, or if you have root permission on Ubuntu, do

$ sudo apt-get install hdf5-tools

Step 4: Install pbalign

To uninstall pbalign, execute

$ pip uninstall pbalign

To install pbalign, execute

$ pip install git+

, or to download the whole pbalign package with examples

$ git clone
$ cd pbalign
$ pip install .


  1. Basic usage of pbalign.
  • Example (1.1)

    $ pbalign tests/data/example_read.fasta \
              tests/data/example_ref.fasta  \
  • Example (1.2)

    $ pbalign tests/data/example_read.fasta \
              tests/data/example_ref.fasta  \
  • Example (1.3) - with optional arguments

    $ pbalign --maxHits 10 --hitPolicy all  \
                 tests/data/example_read.fasta \
                 tests/data/example_ref.fasta  \
  1. Advanced usage of pbalign.
  • Example (2.1) - Import pre-defined options from a config File

    $ pbalign --configFile=tests/data/1.config \
                 tests/data/example_read.fasta    \
                 tests/data/example_ref.fasta     \
  • Example (2.2) - Pass options through to aligner

    $ pbalign --algorithmOptions='-nCandidates 10 -sdpTupleSize 12' \
                 tests/data/example_read.fasta                         \
                 tests/data/example_ref.fasta                          \
  • Example (2.3) - Create a cmp.h5 file with –forQuiver option

    # The output cmp.h5 file will loaded with quality values (pulses)
    # from the input bas/bax.h5 file, sorted and repacked, and therefore
    # can be consumed by Quiver directly, (Note that in order to use
    # --forQuiver option, cmph5tools and h5repack are required.)
    $ pbalign --forQuiver your_movie.bas.h5 your_reference.fasta out.cmp.h5
  1. Use pbalign as a library through Python API.
  • Example (3.1)

    $ python
    >>> from pbalign.pbalignrunner import PBAlignRunner
    >>> # Specify arguments in a list.
    >>> args = ['--maxHits', '20', 'tests/data/example_read.fasta',\
    ...         'tests/data/example_ref.fasta', 'example.sam']
    >>> # Create a PBAlignRunner object.
    >>> a = PBAlignRunner(args)
    >>> # Execute.
    >>> exitCode = a.start()
    >>> # Show all files used.
    >>> print a.fileNames


usage: pbalign [-h] [--verbose] [--version] [--profile] [--debug]
               [--regionTable REGIONTABLE] [--configFile CONFIGFILE]
               [--algorithm {blasr,bowtie}] [--maxHits MAXHITS]
               [--minAnchorSize MINANCHORSIZE]
               [--useccs {useccs,useccsall,useccsdenovo}]
               [--noSplitSubreads] [--nproc NPROC]
               [--algorithmOptions ALGORITHMOPTIONS]
               [--maxDivergence MAXDIVERGENCE] [--minAccuracy MINACCURACY]
               [--minLength MINLENGTH]
               [--scoreFunction {alignerscore,editdist,blasrscore}]
               [--scoreCutoff SCORECUTOFF]
               [--hitPolicy {randombest,allbest,random,all}] [--forQuiver]
               [--seed SEED] [--tmpDir TMPDIR]
               inputFileName referencePath outputFileName

Mapping PacBio sequences to references using an algorithm
selected from a selection of supported command-line alignment
algorithms. Input can be a fasta, pls.h5, bas.h5 or ccs.h5
file or a fofn (file of file names). Output is in either
cmp.h5 or sam format.

positional arguments:
  inputFileName         The input file can be a fasta, pls.h5, bas.h5, ccs.h5
                        file or a fofn.
  referencePath         Either a reference fasta file or a reference repository.
  outputFileName        The output cmp.h5 or sam file.

optional arguments:
  -h, --help            show this help message and exit
  --verbose, -v         Set the verbosity level
  --version             show program's version number and exit
  --profile             Print runtime profile at exit
  --debug               Run within a debugger session
  --regionTable REGIONTABLE
                        Specify a region table for filtering reads.
  --configFile CONFIGFILE
                        Specify a set of user-defined argument values.
  --algorithm {blasr,bowtie}
                        Select an aligorithm from ('blasr', 'bowtie').
                        Default algorithm is blasr.
  --maxHits MAXHITS     The maximum number of matches of each read to the
                        reference sequence that will be evaluated. Default
                        value is 10.
  --minAnchorSize MINANCHORSIZE
                        The minimum anchor size defines the length of the read
                        that must match against the reference sequence. Default
                        value is 12.
  --useccs {useccs,useccsall,useccsdenovo}
                        Map the ccsSequence to the genome first, then align
                        subreads to the interval that the CCS reads mapped to.
                          useccs: only maps subreads that span the length of
                                  the template.
                          useccsall: maps all subreads.
                          useccsdenovo: maps ccs only.
  --noSplitSubreads     Do not split reads into subreads even if subread
                        regions are available.
                        Default value is False.
  --nproc NPROC         Number of threads. Default value is 8.
  --algorithmOptions ALGORITHMOPTIONS
                        Pass alignment options through.
  --maxDivergence MAXDIVERGENCE
                        The maximum allowed percentage divergence of a read
                        from the reference sequence. Default value is 30.
  --minAccuracy MINACCURACY
                        The minimum percentage accuracy of alignments that
                        will be evaluated. Default value is 70.
  --minLength MINLENGTH
                        The minimum aligned read length of alignments that
                        will be evaluated. Default value is 50.
  --scoreFunction {alignerscore,editdist,blasrscore}
                        Specify a score function for evaluating alignments.
                          alignerscore : aligner's score in the SAM tag 'as'.
                          editdist     : edit distance between read and reference.
                          blasrscore   : blasr's default score function.
                        Default value is alignerscore.
  --scoreCutoff SCORECUTOFF
                        The worst score to output an alignment.
  --hitPolicy {randombest,allbest,random,all}
                        Specify a policy for how to treat multiple hit
                          random    : selects a random hit.
                          all       : selects all hits.
                          allbest   : selects all the best score hits.
                          randombest: selects a random hit from all best
                                      alignment score hits.
                        Default value is randombest.
  --forQuiver           The output cmp.h5 file which will be sorted, loaded
                        with pulse information, and repacked, so that it
                        can be consumed by quiver directly. This requires
                        the input file to be in PacBio bas/pls.h5 format.
                        Default value is False.
  --seed SEED           Initialize the random number generator with a none-zero
                        integer. Zero means that current system time is used.
                        Default value is 1.
  --tmpDir TMPDIR       Specify a directory for saving temporary files.
                        Default is /scratch.