This document is for OpenStructure version 1.1, the latest version is 2.7 !

seq – Sequences and Alignments

The seq module helps you working with sequence data of various kinds. It has classes for single sequences, lists of sequences and alignments of two or more sequences.

Attaching Structures to Sequences

As OpenStructure is a computational structural biology framework, it is not surprising that the sequence classes have been designed to work together with structural data. Each sequence can have an attached EntityView allowing for fast mapping between residues in the entity view and position in the sequence.

Sequence Offset

When using sequences and structures together, often the start of the structure and the beginning of the sequence do not fall together. In the following case, the alignment of sequences B and C only covers a subpart of structure A:

A acefghiklmnpqrstuvwy
B     ghiklm
C     123-45

We would now like to know which residue in protein A is aligned to which residue in sequence C. This is achieved by setting the sequence offset of sequence C to 4. In essence, the sequence offset influences all the mapping operations from position in the sequence to residue index and vice versa. By default, the sequence offset is 0.

Loading and Saving Sequences and Alignments

The io module supports input and output of common sequence formats. Single sequences can be loaded from disk with io.LoadSequence(), alignments are loaded with io.LoadAlignment() and lists of sequences are loaded with io.LoadSequenceList(). In addition to the file based input methods, sequences can also be loaded from a string:

s=io.LoadSequenceFromString(seq_string, 'fasta')
print, s # will print "sequence abcdefghiklmnop"

Note that, in that case specifying the format is mandatory.

The SequenceHandle

ost.seq.CreateSequence(name, sequence)

Create a new SequenceHandle with the given name and sequence.

  • name (str) – name of the sequence
  • sequence (str) – String of characters representing the sequence. Only alphanumerical characters and ‘-‘ are allowed.
Raises InvalidSequence:

When the sequence string contains forbidden characters, that is anything that is not alphanumeric or a hyphen.

class ost.seq.SequenceHandle

Represents a sequence. New instances are created with CreateSequence().


Get position of residue with index in sequence. This is best illustrated in the following example:

s=seq.CreateSequence("A", "abc---def")
print s.GetPos(1) # prints 1
print s.GetPos(3) # prints 6

The reverse mapping, that is from position in the sequence to residue index can be achieved with GetResidueIndex().


Get residue index of character at given position. This method is the inverse of GetPos(). If the sequence contains a gap at that position, an Error is raised.

s=seq.CreateSequence("A", "abc--def")
print s.GetResidueIndex(1) # prints 1
print s.GetResidueIndex(6) # prints 4
# the following line raises an exception of type
# Error with the message "requested position contains
# a gap"
print s.GetResidueIndex(3)

As, GetResidueIndex(), but directly returns the residue view. If no view is attached, or if the position is a gap, an invalid residue view is returned.

Return type:ResidueView

Get position of last non-gap character in sequence. In case of an empty sequence, or, a sequence only consisting of hyphens, -1 is returned


Get position of first non-gap character in sequence. In case of an empty sequence, or, a sequence only consisting of hyphens, -1 is returned.

AttachView(view[, chain_name])

Attach an EntityView to sequence. The first signature requires that the view contains one chain. If not, an IntegrityError is raised. The second signature will select the chain with the given name. If no such chain exists, an IntegrityError is raised.


Returns True when the sequence has a view attached, False if not.


Returns the attached EntityView, or an invalid EntityView if no view has been attached. Also available as the property attached_view.


Returns the name of the sequence. Also available as the property name


Set the sequence offset. By default, the offset is 0. Also available as the property offset.


Returns the sequence offset. Also available as offset.


Returns a string version of this sequence with all hyphens removed. Also available as the property gapless_string.


Set name of the sequence. Also available as the property name.


Shorthand for GetGaplessString()


Shorthand for GetName()/SetName()


Shorthand for GetAttachedView().


Shorthand for GetSequenceOffset()/SetSequenceOffset()


Returns the length of the sequence (including insertions and deletions)


Returns the sequence as a string.

The SequenceList

class ost.seq.SequenceList

Represents a list of sequences. The class provides a row-based interface. New instances are created with CreateSequenceList().

The AlignmentHandle

The AlignmentHandle represents a list of aligned sequences. In constrast to SequenceList, an alignment requires all sequences to be of the same length. New instances of alignments are created with CreateAlignment() and AlignmentFromSequenceList().

Typically sequence alignments are used column-based, i.e by looking at an aligned columns in the sequence alignment. To get a row-based (sequence) view on the sequence list, use GetSequenceList().

All functions that operate on an alignment will again produce a valid alignment. This mean that it is not possible to change the length of one sequence, without adjusting the other sequences, too.

The following example shows how to iterate over the columns and sequences of an alignment:

# iterate over the columns
for col in aln:
  print col

# iterate over the sequences
for s in aln.sequences:
  print s

Creates and returns a new AlignmentHandle with no sequences.


Create a new alignment from the given list of sequences

Parameters:sequences (ConstSequenceList) – the list of sequences
Raises :InvalidAlignment if the sequences do not have the same length.
class ost.seq.AlignmentHandle


Several of these methods just forward calls to the sequence. For more detailed information, have a look at the SequenceHandle documentation.


Returns the sequence at the given index, raising an IndexError when trying to access an inexistent sequence.


Returns a list of all sequence of the alignment.


Returns the length of the alignment.


Returns the number of sequences in the alignment.


Returns a formatted string version of the alignment. The sequences are split into smaller parts to fit into the number columns specified.

aln.AddSequence(seq.CreateSequence("A", "abcdefghik"))
aln.AddSequence(seq.CreateSequence("B", "1234567890"))
# The following command will print the output given below
print aln.ToString(7)
# A abcde
# B 12345
# A fghik
# B 67890

Find sequence with given name. If the alignment contains several sequences with the same name, the first sequence is returned.

SetSequenceName(seq_index, name)

Set the name of the sequence at index seq_index to name

SetSequenceOffset(seq_index, offset)

Set the sequence offset of sequence at index seq_index


Create a deep copy of the alignment

GetPos(seq_index, res_index)

Get position of residue with index equal to res_index in sequence at index seq_index.

GetResidueIndex(seq_index, pos)

Get residue index of residue at position pos in sequence at index seq_index.

AttachView(seq_index, view)
AttachView(seq_index, view, chain_name)

Attach the given view to the sequence at index seq_index.

Cut(start, end)

Removes the columns in the half-closed interval start, end from the alignment.

aln.AddSequence(seq.CreateSequence("A", "abcd---hik"))
aln.AddSequence(seq.CreateSequence("B", "1234567890"))
aln.Cut(4, 7)

print aln.ToString(80)
# will print
# A abcdhik
# B 1234890
Replace(new_region, start, end)

Replace the columns in the half-closed interval start, end with the columns in new_region.

Parameters:new_region (AlignedRegion or AlignmentHandle) – The region to be inserted
ShiftRegion(start, end, amount, master=-1)

Shift columns in the half-closed interval start, end. If amount is a positive number, the columns are shifted to the right, if negative, the columns are shifted to the left.

If master is set to -1, all sequences in the region are affected, otherwise only the sequence at index equal to master is shifted.


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