Models Package

MacSyFinder relies on the definition of models of macromolecular systems as a set of models’ components to be searched by similarity search, and a set of rules regarding their genomic organization and their requirement level to make a complete system (mandatory, accessory components, number of components required).

See the section The XML hierarchy for more details on MacSyFinder’s modelling scheme and the section on Functioning for the principles of the MacSyFinder’s search engine.

A MacSyFinder model (macsy-model for short) is the association of several elements:

  • a definition which describes the system to detect with a specific XML grammar that is described here.

  • a set of HMM profiles (one per component/gene in the model) to enable the similarity search of the systems’ components with the HMMER program.

The models are grouped by family possibly gathering sub-families (multiple levels allowed), for instance Secretion, Cas-proteins… A set of models from a same family (coherent set) of systems to detect is called hereafter a macsy-model package NEW in V2.

Structure of a macsy-model package

A macsy-model package follows the following structure:

    |_______ metadata.yml
    |_______ LICENSE
    |_______ model_conf.xml
    |_______ definitions
    |            |________ model_1.xml
    |            |________ model_2.xml
    |            :
    |_______ profiles
                 |________ geneA.hmm
                 |________ geneB.hmm
                 |________ geneC.hmm.gz

If the package contains sub-families:

    |_______ metadata.yml
    |_______ LICENSE
    |_______ model_conf.xml
    |_______ definitions
    |            |________ subfamilyA
    |            |            |________ model_1.xml
    |            |            |________ model_2.xml
    |            |
    |            |________ subfamilyB
    |            |            |________ model_3.xml
    |            |            |________ model_4.xml
    |            |
    |            :
    |_______ profiles
                 |________ geneA.hmm
                 |________ geneB.hmm
                 |________ geneC.hmm.gz

For examples of macsy-model packages, please visit

You can create a template for your package by using macsydata init. It will create for you:

  • the data package directory with the right structure.

  • a template of metadata.yaml .

  • a template of file.

  • a generic model_conf.xml file.

  • a LICENSE file if –license option is set.

  • a COPYRIGHT file if –holders option is set.

  • a directory definitions with an example of model definition (model_example.xml to remove before publishing).

  • a directory profiles where to put the hmm profiles corresponding to the models genes.


MSF can also read .gz compressed files; it will uncompress them on the fly. The compressed files must end with the .gz extension. For the hmmsearch step You need to have gunzip installed on your system for this to work.

A description of the package: what kind of systems the package models, how to use it etc… in markdown format. The Readme is displayed to the user on the macsy-models repository on Github. It is also displayed when the user runs macsydata help.


The license is used to protect your work when sharing it. If you don’t know which license to choose, have a look at CreativeCommons This file is optional, but highly recommended.

Metadata file

The metadata.yml file contains some meta information about the package itself.

It is in YAML format and must have the following structure:

  name: The name of the person who maintains/to contact for further information. (required)
  email: The email of the maintainer (required)
short_desc: A one line description of the package (can e.g. be used for *macsydata* searches) (required)
vers: The package version (required)
cite: The publication(s) to cite by the user when the package is used (optional, used by `macsydata cite`)
doc: Where to find extended documentation (optional)
license: The license under the package is released (optional but highly recommended)
copyright: The copyright of the package (optional)

For example:

   name: first name last name
short_desc: Models for 15 types of secretion systems or bacterial appendages (T1SS, T2SS, T3SS, T4P, pT4SSt, pT4SSi, T5aSS, T5bSS, T5bSS, T6SSi, T6SSii, T6SSiii, Flagellum, Tad, T9SS).
vers: 0.0a1
   - |
     Abby Sophie S., Cury Jean, Guglielmini Julien, Néron Bertrand, Touchon Marie, Rocha Eduardo P. C. (2016).
     Identification of protein secretion systems in bacterial genomes.
     In Scientific Reports, 6, pp. 23080.
license: CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 (
copyright: 2014-2022, Institut Pasteur, CNRS


This metadata.yml file is mandatory. Without this file your archive/repository will not be considered as a macsy-model package.


  • - specify an item of yaml list

  • | is used to specify a single item but over multiple lines.

Model configuration

The modeler has the possibility to specify some options that are specific to their package, different than the MacSyFinder defaults in the model_conf.xml file. NEW in v2

These options can be grouped in two families: the scoring weights and filtering options.

Scoring weights:

  • mandatory (float default = 1.0)

  • accessory (float default = 0.5)

  • exchangeable (float default = 0.8)

  • loner_multi_systems (float default = 0.7)

  • redundancy_penalty (float default = 1.5)

Filtering options:

  • e_value_search (float default = 0.1)

  • i_evalue_sel (float default = 0.001)

  • profile_coverage (float default = 0.5)

  • cut_ga (bool default = True)

All these options are optional and can be omitted in the configuration file, the file itself is optional. The precedence rules between the different levels of configuration are:

system < home < model < project < --cfg-file | --previous-run < command line options
  • system: the macsyfinder.conf file either in /etc/macsyfinder/ or in ${VIRTUAL_ENV}/etc/macsyfinder/ in case of a virtualenv this configuration affects only the MacSyFinder version installed in this virtualenv

  • home: the ~/.macsyfinder/macsyfinder.conf file

  • model: the model_conf.xml file at the root of the model package

  • project: the macsyfinder.conf file found in the directory where the macsyfinder command was run

  • cfgfile: any configuration file specified by the user on the command line (conflicts with the –previous-run option)

  • previous-run: the macsyfinder.conf file found in the results directory of the previous run (conflicts with the –cfg-file option)

  • command line: any option specified directly in the command line

The model_conf.xml configuration file is in xml format and must have the following structure:


Details about the scoring method can be obtained here.