A significant fraction of most genomes is comprised of DNA sequences that have been incompletely investigated. This genomic 'dark matter' contains a wealth of useful biological information that can be recovered by systematically screening genomes in silico using sequence similarity search tools. Specialized computational tools are required to implement these screens efficiently. Here, we describe the database-integrated genome-screening (DIGS) tool: a computational framework for performing these investigations. To demonstrate, we screen mammalian genomes for endogenous viral elements (EVEs) derived from the Filoviridae, Parvoviridae, Circoviridae and Bornaviridae families, identifying numerous novel elements in addition to those that have been described previously. The DIGS tool provides a simple, robust framework for implementing a broad range of heuristic, sequence analysis-based explorations of genomic diversity.
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