Many nf-core pipelines need a reference genome for alignment, annotation or similar purposes.

Illumina iGenomes

To make the use of reference genomes easier, Illumina has developed a centralised resource called iGenomes. The most commonly used reference files are organised in a consistent structure for multiple genomes.

We have uploaded a copy of iGenomes onto AWS S3 and nf-core pipelines are configured to use this by default. AWS-iGenomes is hosted by Amazon as part of the Registry of Open Data and are free to use. For more information about the AWS iGenomes, see

All AWS-iGenome paths are specified in pipelines that support them. By default, the pipeline will automatically download the required reference files when you run the pipeline if you give an appropriate genome key (eg. --genome GRCh38).

Downloading the files takes time and bandwidth, so we recommend making a local copy of the iGenomes resource if possible. Once downloaded, you can customise the variable params.igenomes_base in your custom configuration file to point to the reference location. For example:

params.igenomes_base = '/path/to/data/igenomes/'

Using --genome <id> will then look to your local system for the reference instead of AWS S3.

Adding paths to a config file

If you are unable to use the AWS-iGenomes references, you can still supply reference genome paths on the command line via the pipeline's parameters e.g. --fasta or --gtf.

If you are using the same references repeatedly, it can be more convenient to save these paths in a nextflow config file. Pipelines that support AWS-iGenomes can also be configured to support custom genome IDs and paths.

To use this system, add paths to your config file using the following template:

params {
  genomes {
    'YOUR-ID' {
      fasta  = '<PATH TO FASTA FILE>/genome.fa'
      // [..]
  // Optional - default genome. Ignored if --genome 'OTHER-GENOME' specified on command line
  genome = 'YOUR-ID'

You can add as many genomes as you like as long as they have unique IDs. References are used with the command line option --genome YOUR-ID.

Read the Nextflow configuration documentation for more information about custom config files.