I wish to download a fasta sequence from NCBI using "rentrez" package and then save it in an object, then I want to have this object as a DNAStringSet object to work on the sequence using "Biostrings" capabilities.

I leave my incorrect code here so I would be grateful if you could help me out.

cov2 <- entrez_fetch(db="nucleotide" , rettype = "fasta", id = "NC_045512")
cov2 <- readDNAStringSet(cov2)
Error in .Call2("new_input_filexp", filepath, PACKAGE = "XVector") : 
  cannot open file '>NC_045512.2 
  • $\begingroup$ Please clarify your specific problem or provide additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it's hard to tell exactly what you're asking. $\endgroup$
    – Community Bot
    Commented Oct 14, 2023 at 11:11
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Check what the value of cov2 is after the first command. entrez_fetch() returns the fasta record, but readDNAStringSet() requires a file path as input. $\endgroup$
    – Cloudberry
    Commented Oct 15, 2023 at 15:15

2 Answers 2


Your issue is that entrez_fetch() returns the fasta record(s) as a single string with the definition lines and sequences concatenated. Also, newline characters (\n) appear in place of line breaks, with double newlines (\n\n) separating different records. Here's a function that creates a DNAStringSet given a list of nucleotide identifiers without writing each fasta to a file:

entrez2dss <-
  function(id_list) {
    require(rentrez)    # v1.2.3
    require(Biostrings) # v2.66.0
    require(stringr)    # v1.5.0
    # fetch all sequences, trim empty elements
    raw_ <-
      entrez_fetch(db = "nucleotide",
                   rettype = "fasta",
                   id = id_list) |>
      str_split_1(pattern = "\n\n") |>
    # get sequence names
    names_ <- 
      gsub(pattern = "\n.*",
           replacement = "",
           x = raw_) |>
      gsub(pattern = "^>",
           replacement  = "")
    # get sequences
    seqs_ <-
      sub(pattern = ".*?\n",
          replacement = "",
          x = raw_) |>
      gsub(pattern = "\n",
           replacement = "")
    # create named DNAStringSet object
    dss <- DNAStringSet(x = seqs_)
    names(dss) <- names_

seqlist <- c("NC_045512", "OR558592")
cov2 <- entrez2dss(seqlist)

The previous error message was because the entrez_fetch() function returns the sequence as a character string, not a file path. To save the sequence to a file, I can use the writeLines() function. For example, the following code will save the sequence to a file named cov2.fasta:

# Download the FASTA sequence
cov2 <- entrez_fetch(db = "nucleotide", rettype = "fasta", id = c("NC_045512", "OR558592"))
# Save the sequence to a file
writeLines(cov2, "cov2.fasta")
# Read the FASTA sequence into a DNAStringSet object
cov2_dna <- readDNAStringSet("cov2.fasta")

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