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GMOD in a Box/WebApollo

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GMOD in a Box has WebApollo and all its prerequisites installed and configured. You'll only need to process your data to start using WebApollo.

For this guide, we'll be using the included sample data located in: ~/sample_data/pyu_data

User management

There are two accounts preconfigured for WebApollo. 'web_apollo_admin' with 'web_apollo_admin' as the password and 'guest' with 'guest' as the password. 'web_apollo_admin' has full permissions to the WebApollo instance, while 'guest' only has read and write permissions. If you're going to expose your instance to the outside world, you'll want to change the passwords for these two accounts.

$ -u web_apollo_admin -p <NEW_PASSWORD>
$ -u guest -p <NEW_PASSWORD>

You can add, delete, and change permissions for users from 'Admin->Manage users' interface in the reference sequence selection screen after processing your data. Note that you'll need to be logged in as 'web_apollo_admin' to see this option.

Data processing


We have an experimental script to help in setting up your WebApollo instance. The script is interactive and will setup the configuration, database and permissions, run the JBrowse setup scripts, and setup the BLAT database all from just a GFF3 file. Let's try it with our sample data.

$ sudo
Enter location of GFF3: ~/sample_data/pyu_data/scf1117875582023.gff
Enter location of genomic FASTA (leave empty to use GFF3): 
Enter organism name (genus species): Pythium ultimum
Enter SO term for genomic sequences (e.g., contig): contig

Extracting seqids

Adding annotation tracks to database
Processing Annotations-scf1117875582023

Setting annotation track permissions
Processing Annotations-scf1117875582023

Updating configuration

Processing DNA track

Processing evidence tracks
Processing blastn
Processing blastx
Processing est2genome
Processing maker
Processing protein2genome
Processing repeatmasker
Processing repeatrunner
Processing snap_masked

Setting up WebApollo plugin
parsed tracklist from file: data/trackList.json
output modified trackList to file: data/trackList.json Generating name index (this may take a while)

Creating search database

Restarting Tomcat (enter the password used to login to the VM if prompted)
* Stopping Tomcat servlet engine tomcat7                                  [ OK ] 
* Starting Tomcat servlet engine tomcat7                                  [ OK ]

Your WebApollo instance is ready for use.

Some things to note about this script. First, if will give default colors for the evidence tracks. If you want to modify their look, you'll need to configure them yourself. If you want to setup canned comments, you'll have to do it yourself. You'll want to edit '/data/var/lib/tomcat7/webapps/WebApollo/config/canned_comments.xml'. This tool also won't handle adding BAM and BigWig files. You'll need to run the corresponding scripts to add those types of files. See the section on BAM and BigWig respectively.

The script also takes a number of arguments if you want to run it from the command line without the interactivity. Use the '-h' option to see the available arguments. One argument of significance is '-a' which will be used when you're adding GFF3 files to an EXISTING instance. This will skip some of the steps and just process the GFF3 file. Running it without the '-a' option will restart the setup process from scratch, so you'll lose any previously processed data.

The following sections will cover the individual steps that were automated by the script. You'll want to read through those so that you have a better understanding of the steps involved in setting up the installation, since this script is experimental and if something goes wrong during the setup process, you'll need to handle the failed steps manually.

Setting up the user database

The following steps will be using the included sample First we'll need to setup the user database. It stores users who will have access to WebApollo and their corresponding access level. The database uses PostgreSQL. We have already created the PostgreSQL user for 'web_apollo_users_admin', with password 'web_apollo_users_admin' who has full access to the database used by WebApollo. Note that this is the user for accessing the PostgreSQL database, not a WebApollo user. You can choose to change the password for the PostgreSQL user if you'd like, but PostgreSQL has been setup to not accept any outside connections, so to have unauthorized access to the database means that access to the server has already been compromised. If you choose to change the password, you'll need to update the WebApollo configuration to reflect the change (as well as provide the password in all the included scripts).

We'll add the annotation track ids for the genomic sequences for our organism. We'll use the '' script. We need to generate a file of genomic sequence ids for the script. For convenience, there's a script called '' which will go through a FASTA file and extract all the ids from the deflines. Let's first create the list of genomic sequence ids. We'll store it in '~/scratch/seqids.txt'.

$ -p Annotations- -i ~/sample_data/pyu_data/scf1117875582023.fa -o ~/scratch/seqids.txt

Now we'll add those ids to the user database.

$ -t ~/scratch/seqids.txt

Now that we have the annotation track ids loaded, we'll need to give 'web_apollo_admin' and 'guest' permissions to access the data. We'll give all the all permissions (read, write, publish, user manager) to the 'web_apollo_admin'. We'll use the '' script and will need to provide the script a list of genomic sequence ids, like in the previous step.

$ -u web_apollo_admin -t ~/scratch/seqids.txt -a

For 'guest', we'll give read and write permissions.

$ -u guest -t ~/scratch/seqids.txt -r -w

Note that we're only using a subset of the options for all the scripts mentioned above. You can get more detailed information on any given script (and other available options) using the '-h' or '--help' flag when running the script.

We're all done setting up the user database. Now we need to move on to configuring the application.


Note about text editors: We'll have to edit some of the configuration files before we're up and running. Since there's no desktop environment installed, you'll need to use a non-graphical editor. The virtual machine provides two options: 'nano' (easier to use) and 'vim' (super powerful but a lot harder to use). Unless you're already familiar with 'vim', you're probably better off using 'nano'.

Main configuration

Most of main configuration, located in '/data/var/lib/tomcat7/webapps/WebApollo/config/config.xml' has been set already. However, there're a few items you'll need to change.

First we'll need to put in your organism name (genus and species) in '<organism>'. In our sample data, we're working with 'Pythium ultimum'.

Next we'll want to put in the type for the genomic sequences for the organism in '<sequence_type>'. It should be in the form of 'CV:term'. In our sample data the genomic sequences are of the type 'sequence:contig'.

You should read the configuration section in the server installation documentation to get details about further customizing your WebApollo instance.

Alternate translation tables

By default, WebApollo is configured to use NCBI's translation table 1. If your organism uses an alternate translation table, you'll want to modify the '<translation_table>' element in the main configuration file. Check the contents of the '/data/var/lib/tomcat7/webapps/WebApollo/config/translation_tables' directory to see which translation tables are available and update the entry accordingly.

Canned comments

You can configure a set of predefined comments that will be available for users when adding comments through a dropdown menu. The configuration is stored in '/data/var/lib/tomcat7/webapps/WebApollo/config/canned_comments.xml'. Let's take a look at the configuration file.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>


You'll need one '<comment>' element for each predefined comment. The element needs to have a 'feature_type' attribute in the form of 'CV:term' that this comment applies to. Let's make a few comments for feature of type 'sequence:gene' and 'sequence:mRNA':

<comment feature_type="sequence:gene">This is a comment for a gene</comment>
<comment feature_type="sequence:gene">This is another comment for a gene</comment>
<comment feature_type="sequence:mRNA">This is a comment for a mRNA</comment>

We're now done configuring WebApollo. Onto data generation.

Data generation

The steps for generating data (in particular static data) are mostly similar to JBrowse data generation steps, with some extra steps required. All the data generation steps should be done within WebApollo's JBrowse directory. Let's change into that directory.

$ cd /var/lib/tomcat7/webapps/WebApollo/jbrowse

Note: The following steps require root access, so you can just open a shell as root to run each command (rather than having to sudo each step).

$ sudo -s

DNA track setup

The first thing we need to do before processing our evidence is to generate the reference sequence data to be used by JBrowse. We'll use the '' script.

$ bin/ --fasta ~/sample_data/pyu_data/scf1117875582023.fa

We now have the DNA track setup.

WebApollo plugin

We now need to setup the data configuration to use the WebApollo plugin. We'll use the '' script to do so.

$ bin/ -i data/trackList.json

Static data generation

Generating data from GFF3 works best by having a separate GFF3 per source type. If your GFF3 has all source types in the same file, we need to split up the GFF3. We can use the '' script to do so. We'll output the split GFF3 to some temporary directory (we'll use '~/scratch/split_gff').

$ -i ~/sample_data/pyu_data/scf1117875582023.gff -d ~/scratch/split_gff

If we look at the contents of '~/scratch/split_gff', we can see we have the following files:

$ ls ~/scratch/split_gff
blastn.gff  est2genome.gff  protein2genome.gff  repeatrunner.gff
blastx.gff  maker.gff       repeatmasker.gff    snap_masked.gff

We need to process each file and create the appropriate tracks.

GFF3 with gene/transcript/exon/CDS/polypeptide features

We'll start off with 'maker.gff'. We need to handle that file a bit differently than the rest of the files since the GFF represents the features as gene, transcript, exons, and CDSs.

$ bin/ --gff ~/scratch/split_gff/maker.gff --arrowheadClass trellis-arrowhead --getSubfeatures --subfeatureClasses '{"wholeCDS": null, "CDS":"brightgreen-80pct", "UTR": "darkgreen-60pct", "exon":"container-100pct"}' --cssClass container-16px --type mRNA --trackLabel maker

Note that 'brightgreen-80pct', 'darkgreen-60pct', 'container-100pct', 'container-16px', 'gray-center-20pct' are all CSS classes defined in WebApollo stylesheets that describe how to display their respective features and subfeatures. WebApollo also tries to use reasonable default CSS styles, so it is possible to omit these CSS class arguments. For example, to accept default styles for 'maker.gff', the above could instead be shortened to:

$ bin/ --gff ~/scratch/split_gff/maker.gff --getSubfeatures --type mRNA --trackLabel maker

See the Customizing features section in the WebApollo installation guide for more information on CSS styles.

GFF3 with match/match_part features

Now we need to process the other remaining GFF3 files. The entries in those are stored as 'match/match_part', so they can all be handled in a similar fashion.

We'll start off with blastn as an example.

$ bin/ --gff ~/scratch/split_gff/blastn.gff --arrowheadClass webapollo-arrowhead --getSubfeatures --subfeatureClasses '{"match_part": "darkblue-80pct"}' --cssClass container-10px --trackLabel blastn

Again, 'container-10px' and 'darkblue-80pct' are CSS class names that define how to display those elements. See the Customizing features section in the WebApollo installation guide for more information.

We need to follow the same steps for the remaining GFF3 files. It can be a bit tedious to do this for the remaining six files, so we can use a simple Bash shell script to help us out. Don't worry if the script doesn't make sense, you can always process each file manually.

$ for i in $(ls ~/scratch/split_gff/*.gff | grep -v maker); do j=$(basename $i); j=${j/.gff/}; echo "Processing $j"; bin/ --gff $i --arrowheadClass webapollo-arrowhead --getSubfeatures --subfeatureClasses "{\"match_part\": \"darkblue-80pct\"}" --cssClass container-10px --trackLabel $j; done

Generate searchable name index

Once data tracks have been created, you will need to generate a searchable index of names using the script:

$ bin/

This script creates an index of sequence names and feature names in order to enable auto-completion in the navigation text box. This index is required, so if you do not wish any of the feature tracks to be indexed for auto-completion, you can instead run '' immediately after running '', but before generating other tracks.

The script can be also rerun after any additional tracks are generated if you wish feature names from that track to be added to the index.

BAM data

Now let's look how to configure BAM support. WebApollo has native support for BAM, so no extra processing of the data is required.

First we'll copy the BAM data into the 'data/bam' directory. Keep in mind that this BAM data was randomly generated, so there's really no biological meaning to it. We only created it to show BAM support.

$ cp ~/sample_data/pyu_data/*.bam* data/bam

Now we need to add the BAM track.

$ bin/ --bam_url bam/simulated-sorted.bam --label simulated_bam --key "simulated BAM"

You should now have a simulated BAM track available.

BigWig data

WebApollo has native support for BigWig files (.bw), so no extra processing of the data is required.

Configuring a BigWig track is very similar to configuring a BAM track. First we'll copy the BigWig data into the 'data/bigwig' directory. Keep in mind that this BigWig data was generated as a coverage map derived from the randomly generated BAM data, so like the BAM data there's really no biological meaning to it. We only created it to show BigWig support.

$ cp ~/sample_data/pyu_data/*.bw data/bigwig

Now we need to add the BigWig track.

$ bin/ --bw_url bigwig/ --label simulated_bw --key "simulated BigWig"

You should now have a simulated BigWig track available.

Sequence searching

To allow sequence searching, we'll need to create a sequence database for BLAT to use. We'll use the 'faToTwoBit' tool to convert the sample data FASTA file into a 2bit database. The BLAT database must be stored in '/data/webapollo/blat/db/genomic.2bit' (otherwise you'll need to update the 'blat.xml' configuration to point to the right file).

$ faToTwoBit ~/sample_data/pyu_data/scf1117875582023.fa /data/webapollo/blat/db/genomic.2bit

Accessing WebApollo

You'll need to restart Tomcat for the changes to take affect.

$ service tomcat7 restart

WebApollo should now be up and running. You can access it:


Enter 'web_apollo_admin' for the 'User name' and whatever password you changed it to for 'Password' (default is 'web_apollo_admin').