Database Search Items Format Style

Upload File Format Style

Dbfetch Help

What is dbfetch?

Dbfetch is an abbreviation for "database fetch". Dbfetch provides an easy way to retrieve entries from various databases at the EMBL-EBI in a consistent manner. It can be used from any browser as well as well as within a web-aware scripting tool that uses wget, lynx or similar.


Frequently Asked Questions for Dbfetch.

How to use dbfetch?

  • From the browser

    Follow these instructions...

    1. Select a database:
      -If you are using the first form to paste your search items: choose a database name from this form.
      -If you are using the second form to upload your search items: the database name is included at the beginning of each line line of the upload file followed by a colon...more

    2. Enter search terms:
      These MUST BE in the appropriate database format, up to 200 search items can be queried in one run.
      -If you are using the first form: separate search items with a comma or space...more
      -If you are using the second form: separate search items with a new line...more

    3. Choose an output format:
      Here you can choose the simpler fasta format, or the databases' default format for the chosen database...more

    4. Style:
      You can get your results as text or html...more

    5. Retrieve!
      You are now ready to fetch your results, by pressing the Retrieve button.

    Search Items

    You may enter up to 200 search items for your chosen database.

    Multiple search terms should be separated by EITHER a space OR a comma.

    e.g. ENA Sequence

    "AE014292,AE017197,AE017354" or "AE014292 AE017197 AE017354"

    e.g. UniProtKB

    "1433X_MAIZE,1433T_RAT,ACR2_YEAST" or "1433X_MAIZE 1433T_RAT ACR2_YEAST"

    Upload File

    Here you may upload a file in the specified format.

    You may retrieve up to 200 entries.

    Entries in the uploaded file all need to belong to the same database.

    Each entry you wish to retrieve MUST be on a new line and in the format: "database name":"id"

    e.g. ENA Sequence

    e.g. UniProt

    Output Format

    The sequence/database format of the results. Sequence formats are simply the way in which the amino acid or DNA sequence is recorded in a computer file. Different programs expect different formats, so if you are to submit a job successfully, it is important to understand what the various formats look like. To learn more about sequence formats, please see the EMBOSS documentation at

    The default is often the default format for the specified database, which can also can be selected in the drop down list.

    e.g. The default for the UniProtKB Database is "uniprot" format.

    See an example of this format at

    Fasta format contains a one line header followed by lines of sequence data. Sequences in fasta formatted files are preceded by a line starting with a " >" symbol. The first word on this line is the name of the sequence. The rest of the line is a description of the sequence.


    >uniprot|P13346|FOSB_MOUSE Protein fosB.
    Learn more about this format at

    If no format is specified, as in an http request, the default format will be used.

    ENA XML formats, there are two XML formats available from the ENA Sequence database.
    EMBLXML : XML format for the ENA Sequence nucleotide sequence database , developed internally.
    INSDXML : XML format for the ENA Sequence nucleotide sequence database, developed in collaboration with NCBI (GenBank) and DDBJ.
    DTD for INSDXML and the DTD/XML Schema for EBMLXML can be found here.


    The results can either be delivered as raw text or as html, specify here which style you prefer.

    The default style is html.

  • from within a script - examples of the URL for all styles and formats

    For people interested in programmatic access to the Dbfetch functionality, we recommend using our new Web Services version of Dbfetch: WSDbfetch.

    Alternatively, you can use dbfetch for direct access:

    Making scripted http requests to dbfetch is very simple, the parameters which can be used are db, id, format and style. Of these parameters only db and id are required fields. When omitting to use format and/or style, the defaults for the chosen database will be used (the default style is always html).

    The URL to dbfetch is always of this format:

    • DB_NAME - Must be chosen from the table below
    • IDS - Single id/acc or comma/white-space separated list (id1 or id1 id2 id3 or id1,id2,id3)
    • FORMAT_NAME - Name of the output format, varies between databases
    • STYLE_NAME - Name of the output style, available styles are raw and html

    For details of the available databases, formats and styles see the list of databases. Additional examples are provided in the syntax guide.


    Instead of the default raw (plain ASCII) style, entries can also be retrieved in plain text (raw):,K00650,D87894,AJ242600&style=raw

    It is also possible to retrieve Fasta formatted sequences:,K00650,D87894,AJ242600&format=fasta

    Because of backward compatibility issues the program can be simply called by giving one or more INSDC accession numbers or entry names:

How do I cite dbfetch?

Lopez R, Cowley A, Li W, McWilliam H.(2013) Using EMBL-EBI Services via Web Interface and Programmatically via Web Services. Curr Protoc Bioinformatics Volume 48 (2014) p.3.12.1-3.12.50. DOI: 10.1002/0471250953.bi0312s48
McWilliam H., Li W., Uludag M., Squizzato S., Park Y.M., Buso N., Cowley A.P., Lopez R.(2013) Analysis Tool Web Services from the EMBL-EBI Nucleic Acids Research 41: W597-W600. PubMed Id: 23671338 Abstract DOI: 10.1093/nar/gkt376

How to get support?

First please see if your issue is covered by the Frequently Asked Questions for dbfetch. If your issue is not addressed in the FAQ then please contact us for assistance.