Introduction to Biopython

The powerful bioinformatics programme Biopython has become a standard resource for experts in the area. You are given an introduction to Biopython in this article, which also covers its installation and provides examples that demonstrate its use. Even though we're going into Biopython, remember that it's only a small part of the larger Python ecosystem, which offers a wide range of modules and tools to meet different computational and scientific needs.

A Glimpse of Biopython

A Python module called Biopython was created to assist scientists in using Python for bioinformatics. It offers resources for working with biological data, such as functions for assembling genomes, analysing protein sequences, and using machine learning to bioinformatics.

Installing Biopython

You must have Biopython installed in your Python environment before you can use it. You can use the pip command listed below to install Biopython if it isn't already installed:

pip install biopython

Exploring Biopython's Capabilities with Examples

To better comprehend how to use Biopython, let's delve into some practical examples.

Example 1: Sequence Manipulation

The manipulation of biological sequences is one of the basic features that Biopython offers. The Bio.Seq module's Seq class enables users to handle and work with sequences 

from Bio.Seq import Seq

# Create a sequence
seq = Seq("AGTACACTGGT")

# Print sequence
print("Sequence:", seq)

# Reverse the sequence
print("Reversed sequence:", seq[::-1])

# Complement of the sequence
print("Complement:", seq.complement())

# Reverse Complement
print("Reverse Complement:", seq.reverse_complement())

Example 2: Calculating GC Content

The proportion of nucleotides in a DNA sequence that are either guanine (G) or cytosine (C) is known as the GC content. A function to figure out the GC content is available in Biopython 

from Bio.Seq import Seq
from Bio.SeqUtils import GC

# Create a sequence
seq = Seq("AGTACACTGGT")

# Calculate GC content
print("GC content:", GC(seq), "%")

Example 3: Reading Sequence Files

For reading and writing various sequence file formats, such as FASTA, GenBank, etc., Biopython offers capability. Here is an illustration of how to read a FASTA file 

from Bio import SeqIO

# Read a FASTA file
for seq_record in SeqIO.parse("example.fasta", "fasta"):
   print("Sequence length:", len(seq_record))
   print("Sequence:", seq_record.seq)

Please substitute the path to your FASTA file for "example.fasta".

Example 4: Transcription and Translation

The essential molecular biology processes of transcription and translation are made possible by Biopython. How to do it is as follows 

from Bio.Seq import Seq

# Create a DNA sequence

# Transcribe the DNA sequence to mRNA
mrna_seq = dna_seq.transcribe()
print("mRNA sequence:", mrna_seq)

# Translate the mRNA sequence to a protein sequence
protein_seq = mrna_seq.translate()
print("Protein sequence:", protein_seq)

Example 5: Parsing BLAST output

The BLAST (Basic Local Alignment Search Tool) output files can be parsed by Biopython, which is extensively used in bioinformatics to identify regions of similarity between biological sequences. Here's an easy illustration 

from Bio.Blast import NCBIXML

# Parse the BLAST xml output
blast_record ="my_blast.xml"))

# Loop over each alignment in the blast output
for alignment in blast_record.alignments:
   for hsp in alignment.hsps:
      print("sequence:", alignment.title)
      print("length:", alignment.length)
      print("e value:", hsp.expect)

Replace "my_blast.xml" in this example with the location of your BLAST output file.

Example 6: Fetching Records from NCBI

From NCBI databases, Biopython can retrieve data. The nucleotide database can be accessed using the following procedure −

from Bio import Entrez

# Always tell NCBI who you are = ""

# Fetch the record
handle = Entrez.efetch(db="nucleotide", id="EU490707", rettype="gb", retmode="text")
record =, "genbank")

# Print the record

Please substitute your email address for "". This illustration retrieves and publishes a particular GenBank entry.


As we've seen, the Python environment for biology and bioinformatics is significantly impacted by Biopython, which offers a set of tools for bioinformatics analysis. This introduction, nevertheless, just begins to scrape the surface of Biopython's capabilities. In addition, Biopython has a large number of other modules that offer functionality for tasks like searching biological databases, analysing protein structures, using machine learning in bioinformatics, and much more.

Biopython is a fantastic tool for programmers as well as biologists interested in learning more about the field of bioinformatics. Roll up your sleeves and start coding with Biopython since the greatest way to learn a tool is to use it.

Updated on: 17-Jul-2023


Kickstart Your Career

Get certified by completing the course

Get Started