TaxMan: a server to trim rRNA reference databases and inspect taxonomic coverage

Bernd W. Brandt*, Marc J. Bonder, Susan M. Huse, Egija Zaura

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)
22 Downloads (Pure)


Amplicon sequencing of the hypervariable regions of the small subunit ribosomal RNA gene is a widely accepted method for identifying the members of complex bacterial communities. Several rRNA gene sequence reference databases can be used to assign taxonomic names to the sequencing reads using BLAST, USEARCH, GAST or the RDP classifier. Next-generation sequencing methods produce ample reads, but they are short, currently similar to 100-450 nt (depending on the technology), as compared to the full rRNA gene of similar to 1550 nt. It is important, therefore, to select the right rRNA gene region for sequencing. The primers should amplify the species of interest and the hypervariable regions should differentiate their taxonomy. Here, we introduce TaxMan: a web-based tool that trims reference sequences based on user-selected primer pairs and returns an assessment of the primer specificity by taxa. It allows interactive plotting of taxa, both amplified and missed in silico by the primers used. Additionally, using the trimmed sequences improves the speed of sequence matching algorithms. The smaller database greatly improves run times (up to 98%) and memory usage, not only of similarity searching (BLAST), but also of chimera checking (UCHIME) and of clustering the reads (UCLUST). TaxMan is available at

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)W82-W87
Number of pages6
JournalNucleic Acids Research
Issue numberW1
Publication statusPublished - Jul-2012
Externally publishedYes


  • RDP-II
  • ARB

Cite this