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Background The Syrian hamster (Mesocricetus auratus) has been suggested as a useful mammalian model for a variety of diseases and infections, including infection with respiratory viruses such as SARS-CoV-2. The MesAur1.0 genome assembly was published in 2013 using whole-genome shotgun sequencing with short-read sequence data. Current more advanced sequencing technologies and assembly methods now permit the generation of near-complete genome assemblies with higher quality and higher continuity.
Findings Here, we report an improved assembly of the M. auratus genome (BCM_Maur_2.0) using Oxford Nanopore Technologies long-read sequencing to produce a chromosome-scale assembly. The total length of the new assembly is 2.46 Gbp, similar to the 2.50 Gbp length of a previous assembly of this genome, MesAur1.0. BCM_Maur_2.0 exhibits significantly improved continuity with a scaffold N50 that is 6.7 times greater than MesAur1.0. Furthermore, 21,616 protein coding genes and 10,459 noncoding genes were annotated in BCM_Maur_2.0 compared to 20,495 protein coding genes and 4,168 noncoding genes in MesAur1.0. This new assembly also improves the unresolved regions as measured by nucleotide ambiguities, where approximately 17.11% of bases in MesAur1.0 were unresolved compared to BCM_Maur_2.0 in which the number of unresolved bases is reduced to 3.00%.
Conclusions Access to a more complete reference genome with improved accuracy and continuity will facilitate more detailed, comprehensive, and meaningful research results for a wide variety of future studies using Syrian hamsters as models.