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1.  Improving SNP discovery by base alignment quality 
Bioinformatics  2011;27(8):1157-1158.
Summary: I propose a new application of profile Hidden Markov Models in the area of SNP discovery from resequencing data, to greatly reduce false SNP calls caused by misalignments around insertions and deletions (indels). The central concept is per-Base Alignment Quality, which accurately measures the probability of a read base being wrongly aligned. The effectiveness of BAQ has been positively confirmed on large datasets by the 1000 Genomes Project analysis subgroup.
PMCID: PMC3072548  PMID: 21320865
2.  Tabix: fast retrieval of sequence features from generic TAB-delimited files 
Bioinformatics  2011;27(5):718-719.
Summary: Tabix is the first generic tool that indexes position sorted files in TAB-delimited formats such as GFF, BED, PSL, SAM and SQL export, and quickly retrieves features overlapping specified regions. Tabix features include few seek function calls per query, data compression with gzip compatibility and direct FTP/HTTP access. Tabix is implemented as a free command-line tool as well as a library in C, Java, Perl and Python. It is particularly useful for manually examining local genomic features on the command line and enables genome viewers to support huge data files and remote custom tracks over networks.
Availability and Implementation:
PMCID: PMC3042176  PMID: 21208982
3.  Confidence-based Somatic Mutation Evaluation and Prioritization 
PLoS Computational Biology  2012;8(9):e1002714.
Next generation sequencing (NGS) has enabled high throughput discovery of somatic mutations. Detection depends on experimental design, lab platforms, parameters and analysis algorithms. However, NGS-based somatic mutation detection is prone to erroneous calls, with reported validation rates near 54% and congruence between algorithms less than 50%. Here, we developed an algorithm to assign a single statistic, a false discovery rate (FDR), to each somatic mutation identified by NGS. This FDR confidence value accurately discriminates true mutations from erroneous calls. Using sequencing data generated from triplicate exome profiling of C57BL/6 mice and B16-F10 melanoma cells, we used the existing algorithms GATK, SAMtools and SomaticSNiPer to identify somatic mutations. For each identified mutation, our algorithm assigned an FDR. We selected 139 mutations for validation, including 50 somatic mutations assigned a low FDR (high confidence) and 44 mutations assigned a high FDR (low confidence). All of the high confidence somatic mutations validated (50 of 50), none of the 44 low confidence somatic mutations validated, and 15 of 45 mutations with an intermediate FDR validated. Furthermore, the assignment of a single FDR to individual mutations enables statistical comparisons of lab and computation methodologies, including ROC curves and AUC metrics. Using the HiSeq 2000, single end 50 nt reads from replicates generate the highest confidence somatic mutation call set.
Author Summary
Next generation sequencing (NGS) has enabled unbiased, high throughput discovery of genetic variations and somatic mutations. However, the NGS platform is still prone to errors resulting in inaccurate mutation calls. A statistical measure of the confidence of putative mutation calls would enable researchers to prioritize and select mutations in a robust manner. Here we present our development of a confidence score for mutations calls and apply the method to the identification of somatic mutations in B16 melanoma. We use NGS exome resequencing to profile triplicates of both the reference C57BL/6 mice and the B16-F10 melanoma cells. These replicate data allow us to formulate the false discovery rate of somatic mutations as a statistical quantity. Using this method, we show that 50 of 50 high confidence mutation calls are correct while 0 of 44 low confidence mutations are correct, demonstrating that the method is able to correctly rank mutation calls.
PMCID: PMC3459886  PMID: 23028300
4.  Application of Genotyping-by-Sequencing on Semiconductor Sequencing Platforms: A Comparison of Genetic and Reference-Based Marker Ordering in Barley 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e76925.
The rapid development of next-generation sequencing platforms has enabled the use of sequencing for routine genotyping across a range of genetics studies and breeding applications. Genotyping-by-sequencing (GBS), a low-cost, reduced representation sequencing method, is becoming a common approach for whole-genome marker profiling in many species. With quickly developing sequencing technologies, adapting current GBS methodologies to new platforms will leverage these advancements for future studies. To test new semiconductor sequencing platforms for GBS, we genotyped a barley recombinant inbred line (RIL) population. Based on a previous GBS approach, we designed bar code and adapter sets for the Ion Torrent platforms. Four sets of 24-plex libraries were constructed consisting of 94 RILs and the two parents and sequenced on two Ion platforms. In parallel, a 96-plex library of the same RILs was sequenced on the Illumina HiSeq 2000. We applied two different computational pipelines to analyze sequencing data; the reference-independent TASSEL pipeline and a reference-based pipeline using SAMtools. Sequence contigs positioned on the integrated physical and genetic map were used for read mapping and variant calling. We found high agreement in genotype calls between the different platforms and high concordance between genetic and reference-based marker order. There was, however, paucity in the number of SNP that were jointly discovered by the different pipelines indicating a strong effect of alignment and filtering parameters on SNP discovery. We show the utility of the current barley genome assembly as a framework for developing very low-cost genetic maps, facilitating high resolution genetic mapping and negating the need for developing de novo genetic maps for future studies in barley. Through demonstration of GBS on semiconductor sequencing platforms, we conclude that the GBS approach is amenable to a range of platforms and can easily be modified as new sequencing technologies, analysis tools and genomic resources develop.
PMCID: PMC3789676  PMID: 24098570
5.  Exploring single-sample SNP and INDEL calling with whole-genome de novo assembly 
Bioinformatics  2012;28(14):1838-1844.
Motivation: Eugene Myers in his string graph paper suggested that in a string graph or equivalently a unitig graph, any path spells a valid assembly. As a string/unitig graph also encodes every valid assembly of reads, such a graph, provided that it can be constructed correctly, is in fact a lossless representation of reads. In principle, every analysis based on whole-genome shotgun sequencing (WGS) data, such as SNP and insertion/deletion (INDEL) calling, can also be achieved with unitigs.
Results: To explore the feasibility of using de novo assembly in the context of resequencing, we developed a de novo assembler, fermi, that assembles Illumina short reads into unitigs while preserving most of information of the input reads. SNPs and INDELs can be called by mapping the unitigs against a reference genome. By applying the method on 35-fold human resequencing data, we showed that in comparison to the standard pipeline, our approach yields similar accuracy for SNP calling and better results for INDEL calling. It has higher sensitivity than other de novo assembly based methods for variant calling. Our work suggests that variant calling with de novo assembly can be a beneficial complement to the standard variant calling pipeline for whole-genome resequencing. In the methodological aspects, we propose FMD-index for forward–backward extension of DNA sequences, a fast algorithm for finding all super-maximal exact matches and one-pass construction of unitigs from an FMD-index.
PMCID: PMC3389770  PMID: 22569178
6.  PyroHMMsnp: an SNP caller for Ion Torrent and 454 sequencing data 
Nucleic Acids Research  2013;41(13):e136.
Both 454 and Ion Torrent sequencers are capable of producing large amounts of long high-quality sequencing reads. However, as both methods sequence homopolymers in one cycle, they both suffer from homopolymer uncertainty and incorporation asynchronization. In mapping, such sequencing errors could shift alignments around homopolymers and thus induce incorrect mismatches, which have become a critical barrier against the accurate detection of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). In this article, we propose a hidden Markov model (HMM) to statistically and explicitly formulate homopolymer sequencing errors by the overcall, undercall, insertion and deletion. We use a hierarchical model to describe the sequencing and base-calling processes, and we estimate parameters of the HMM from resequencing data by an expectation-maximization algorithm. Based on the HMM, we develop a realignment-based SNP-calling program, termed PyroHMMsnp, which realigns read sequences around homopolymers according to the error model and then infers the underlying genotype by using a Bayesian approach. Simulation experiments show that the performance of PyroHMMsnp is exceptional across various sequencing coverages in terms of sensitivity, specificity and F1 measure, compared with other tools. Analysis of the human resequencing data shows that PyroHMMsnp predicts 12.9% more SNPs than Samtools while achieving a higher specificity. (
PMCID: PMC3711422  PMID: 23700313
7.  Comprehensive Analysis to Improve the Validation Rate for Single Nucleotide Variants Detected by Next-Generation Sequencing 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e86664.
Next-generation sequencing (NGS) has enabled the high-throughput discovery of germline and somatic mutations. However, NGS-based variant detection is still prone to errors, resulting in inaccurate variant calls. Here, we categorized the variants detected by NGS according to total read depth (TD) and SNP quality (SNPQ), and performed Sanger sequencing with 348 selected non-synonymous single nucleotide variants (SNVs) for validation. Using the SAMtools and GATK algorithms, the validation rate was positively correlated with SNPQ but showed no correlation with TD. In addition, common variants called by both programs had a higher validation rate than caller-specific variants. We further examined several parameters to improve the validation rate, and found that strand bias (SB) was a key parameter. SB in NGS data showed a strong difference between the variants passing validation and those that failed validation, showing a validation rate of more than 92% (filtering cutoff value: alternate allele forward [AF]≥20 and AF<80 in SAMtools, SB<–10 in GATK). Moreover, the validation rate increased significantly (up to 97–99%) when the variant was filtered together with the suggested values of mapping quality (MQ), SNPQ and SB. This detailed and systematic study provides comprehensive recommendations for improving validation rates, saving time and lowering cost in NGS analyses.
PMCID: PMC3906084  PMID: 24489763
8.  Discovering Motifs in Ranked Lists of DNA Sequences 
PLoS Computational Biology  2007;3(3):e39.
Computational methods for discovery of sequence elements that are enriched in a target set compared with a background set are fundamental in molecular biology research. One example is the discovery of transcription factor binding motifs that are inferred from ChIP–chip (chromatin immuno-precipitation on a microarray) measurements. Several major challenges in sequence motif discovery still require consideration: (i) the need for a principled approach to partitioning the data into target and background sets; (ii) the lack of rigorous models and of an exact p-value for measuring motif enrichment; (iii) the need for an appropriate framework for accounting for motif multiplicity; (iv) the tendency, in many of the existing methods, to report presumably significant motifs even when applied to randomly generated data. In this paper we present a statistical framework for discovering enriched sequence elements in ranked lists that resolves these four issues. We demonstrate the implementation of this framework in a software application, termed DRIM (discovery of rank imbalanced motifs), which identifies sequence motifs in lists of ranked DNA sequences. We applied DRIM to ChIP–chip and CpG methylation data and obtained the following results. (i) Identification of 50 novel putative transcription factor (TF) binding sites in yeast ChIP–chip data. The biological function of some of them was further investigated to gain new insights on transcription regulation networks in yeast. For example, our discoveries enable the elucidation of the network of the TF ARO80. Another finding concerns a systematic TF binding enhancement to sequences containing CA repeats. (ii) Discovery of novel motifs in human cancer CpG methylation data. Remarkably, most of these motifs are similar to DNA sequence elements bound by the Polycomb complex that promotes histone methylation. Our findings thus support a model in which histone methylation and CpG methylation are mechanistically linked. Overall, we demonstrate that the statistical framework embodied in the DRIM software tool is highly effective for identifying regulatory sequence elements in a variety of applications ranging from expression and ChIP–chip to CpG methylation data. DRIM is publicly available at
Author Summary
A computational problem with many applications in molecular biology is to identify short DNA sequence patterns (motifs) that are significantly overrepresented in a target set of genomic sequences relative to a background set of genomic sequences. One example is a target set that contains DNA sequences to which a specific transcription factor protein was experimentally measured as bound while the background set contains sequences to which the same transcription factor was not bound. Overrepresented sequence motifs in the target set may represent a subsequence that is molecularly recognized by the transcription factor. An inherent limitation of the above formulation of the problem lies in the fact that in many cases data cannot be clearly partitioned into distinct target and background sets in a biologically justified manner. We describe a statistical framework for discovering motifs in a list of genomic sequences that are ranked according to a biological parameter or measurement (e.g., transcription factor to sequence binding measurements). Our approach circumvents the need to partition the data into target and background sets using arbitrarily set parameters. The framework is implemented in a software tool called DRIM. The application of DRIM led to the identification of novel putative transcription factor binding sites in yeast and to the discovery of previously unknown motifs in CpG methylation regions in human cancer cell lines.
PMCID: PMC1829477  PMID: 17381235
9.  BAYSIC: a Bayesian method for combining sets of genome variants with improved specificity and sensitivity 
BMC Bioinformatics  2014;15:104.
Accurate genomic variant detection is an essential step in gleaning medically useful information from genome data. However, low concordance among variant-calling methods reduces confidence in the clinical validity of whole genome and exome sequence data, and confounds downstream analysis for applications in genome medicine.
Here we describe BAYSIC (BAYeSian Integrated Caller), which combines SNP variant calls produced by different methods (e.g. GATK, FreeBayes, Atlas, SamTools, etc.) into a more accurate set of variant calls. BAYSIC differs from majority voting, consensus or other ad hoc intersection-based schemes for combining sets of genome variant calls. Unlike other classification methods, the underlying BAYSIC model does not require training using a “gold standard” of true positives. Rather, with each new dataset, BAYSIC performs an unsupervised, fully Bayesian latent class analysis to estimate false positive and false negative error rates for each input method. The user specifies a posterior probability threshold according to the user’s tolerance for false positive and false negative errors; lowering the posterior probability threshold allows the user to trade specificity for sensitivity while raising the threshold increases specificity in exchange for sensitivity.
We assessed the performance of BAYSIC in comparison to other variant detection methods using ten low coverage (~5X) samples from The 1000 Genomes Project, a tumor/normal exome pair (40X), and exome sequences (40X) from positive control samples previously identified to contain clinically relevant SNPs. We demonstrated BAYSIC’s superior variant-calling accuracy, both for somatic mutation detection and germline variant detection.
BAYSIC provides a method for combining sets of SNP variant calls produced by different variant calling programs. The integrated set of SNP variant calls produced by BAYSIC improves the sensitivity and specificity of the variant calls used as input. In addition to combining sets of germline variants, BAYSIC can also be used to combine sets of somatic mutations detected in the context of tumor/normal sequencing experiments.
PMCID: PMC3999887  PMID: 24725768
SNP; Genome variants; Bayesian; Latent class analysis; Cancer; Somatic mutation
10.  An empirical Bayesian framework for somatic mutation detection from cancer genome sequencing data 
Nucleic Acids Research  2013;41(7):e89.
Recent advances in high-throughput sequencing technologies have enabled a comprehensive dissection of the cancer genome clarifying a large number of somatic mutations in a wide variety of cancer types. A number of methods have been proposed for mutation calling based on a large amount of sequencing data, which is accomplished in most cases by statistically evaluating the difference in the observed allele frequencies of possible single nucleotide variants between tumours and paired normal samples. However, an accurate detection of mutations remains a challenge under low sequencing depths or tumour contents. To overcome this problem, we propose a novel method, Empirical Bayesian mutation Calling (, for detecting somatic mutations. Unlike previous methods, the proposed method discriminates somatic mutations from sequencing errors based on an empirical Bayesian framework, where the model parameters are estimated using sequencing data from multiple non-paired normal samples. Using 13 whole-exome sequencing data with 87.5–206.3 mean sequencing depths, we demonstrate that our method not only outperforms several existing methods in the calling of mutations with moderate allele frequencies but also enables accurate calling of mutations with low allele frequencies (≤10%) harboured within a minor tumour subpopulation, thus allowing for the deciphering of fine substructures within a tumour specimen.
PMCID: PMC3627598  PMID: 23471004
11.  SNP Discovery in the Transcriptome of White Pacific Shrimp Litopenaeus vannamei by Next Generation Sequencing 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e87218.
The application of next generation sequencing technology has greatly facilitated high throughput single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) discovery and genotyping in genetic research. In the present study, SNPs were discovered based on two transcriptomes of Litopenaeus vannamei (L. vannamei) generated from Illumina sequencing platform HiSeq 2000. One transcriptome of L. vannamei was obtained through sequencing on the RNA from larvae at mysis stage and its reference sequence was de novo assembled. The data from another transcriptome were downloaded from NCBI and the reads of the two transcriptomes were mapped separately to the assembled reference by BWA. SNP calling was performed using SAMtools. A total of 58,717 and 36,277 SNPs with high quality were predicted from the two transcriptomes, respectively. SNP calling was also performed using the reads of two transcriptomes together, and a total of 96,040 SNPs with high quality were predicted. Among these 96,040 SNPs, 5,242 and 29,129 were predicted as non-synonymous and synonymous SNPs respectively. Characterization analysis of the predicted SNPs in L. vannamei showed that the estimated SNP frequency was 0.21% (one SNP per 476 bp) and the estimated ratio for transition to transversion was 2.0. Fifty SNPs were randomly selected for validation by Sanger sequencing after PCR amplification and 76% of SNPs were confirmed, which indicated that the SNPs predicted in this study were reliable. These SNPs will be very useful for genetic study in L. vannamei, especially for the high density linkage map construction and genome-wide association studies.
PMCID: PMC3907553  PMID: 24498047
12.  A hidden Markov approach for ascertaining cSNP genotypes from RNA sequence data in the presence of allelic imbalance by exploiting linkage disequilibrium 
BMC Bioinformatics  2015;16(1):61.
Allelic specific expression (ASE) increases our understanding of the genetic control of gene expression and its links to phenotypic variation. ASE testing is implemented through binomial or beta-binomial tests of sequence read counts of alternative alleles at a cSNP of interest in heterozygous individuals. This requires prior ascertainment of the cSNP genotypes for all individuals. To meet the needs, we propose hidden Markov methods to call SNPs from next generation RNA sequence data when ASE possibly exists.
We propose two hidden Markov models (HMMs), HMM-ASE and HMM-NASE that consider or do not consider ASE, respectively, in order to improve genotyping accuracy. Both HMMs have the advantages of calling the genotypes of several SNPs simultaneously and allow mapping error which, respectively, utilize the dependence among SNPs and correct the bias due to mapping error. In addition, HMM-ASE exploits ASE information to further improve genotype accuracy when the ASE is likely to be present.
Simulation results indicate that the HMMs proposed demonstrate a very good prediction accuracy in terms of controlling both the false discovery rate (FDR) and the false negative rate (FNR). When ASE is present, the HMM-ASE had a lower FNR than HMM-NASE, while both can control the false discovery rate (FDR) at a similar level. By exploiting linkage disequilibrium (LD), a real data application demonstrate that the proposed methods have better sensitivity and similar FDR in calling heterozygous SNPs than the VarScan method. Sensitivity and FDR are similar to that of the BCFtools and Beagle methods. The resulting genotypes show good properties for the estimation of the genetic parameters and ASE ratios.
We introduce HMMs, which are able to exploit LD and account for the ASE and mapping errors, to simultaneously call SNPs from the next generation RNA sequence data. The method introduced can reliably call for cSNP genotypes even in the presence of ASE and under low sequencing coverage. As a byproduct, the proposed method is able to provide predictions of ASE ratios for the heterozygous genotypes, which can then be used for ASE testing.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12859-015-0479-2) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4351697  PMID: 25887316
Hidden Markov model; RNA-seq data; Allelic specific expression
13.  Population genetic analysis of bi-allelic structural variants from low-coverage sequence data with an expectation-maximization algorithm 
BMC Bioinformatics  2014;15:163.
Population genetics and association studies usually rely on a set of known variable sites that are then genotyped in subsequent samples, because it is easier to genotype than to discover the variation. This is also true for structural variation detected from sequence data. However, the genotypes at known variable sites can only be inferred with uncertainty from low coverage data. Thus, statistical approaches that infer genotype likelihoods, test hypotheses, and estimate population parameters without requiring accurate genotypes are becoming popular. Unfortunately, the current implementations of these methods are intended to analyse only single nucleotide and short indel variation, and they usually assume that the two alleles in a heterozygous individual are sampled with equal probability. This is generally false for structural variants detected with paired ends or split reads. Therefore, the population genetics of structural variants cannot be studied, unless a painstaking and potentially biased genotyping is performed first.
We present svgem, an expectation-maximization implementation to estimate allele and genotype frequencies, calculate genotype posterior probabilities, and test for Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium and for population differences, from the numbers of times the alleles are observed in each individual. Although applicable to single nucleotide variation, it aims at bi-allelic structural variation of any type, observed by either split reads or paired ends, with arbitrarily high allele sampling bias. We test svgem with simulated and real data from the 1000 Genomes Project.
svgem makes it possible to use low-coverage sequencing data to study the population distribution of structural variants without having to know their genotypes. Furthermore, this advance allows the combined analysis of structural and nucleotide variation within the same genotype-free statistical framework, thus preventing biases introduced by genotype imputation.
PMCID: PMC4055234  PMID: 24884587
Structural variation; Population genetics; Maximum likelihood; Reference bias; Genotyping
14.  BlackOPs: increasing confidence in variant detection through mappability filtering 
Nucleic Acids Research  2013;41(19):e178.
Identifying variants using high-throughput sequencing data is currently a challenge because true biological variants can be indistinguishable from technical artifacts. One source of technical artifact results from incorrectly aligning experimentally observed sequences to their true genomic origin (‘mismapping’) and inferring differences in mismapped sequences to be true variants. We developed BlackOPs, an open-source tool that simulates experimental RNA-seq and DNA whole exome sequences derived from the reference genome, aligns these sequences by custom parameters, detects variants and outputs a blacklist of positions and alleles caused by mismapping. Blacklists contain thousands of artifact variants that are indistinguishable from true variants and, for a given sample, are expected to be almost completely false positives. We show that these blacklist positions are specific to the alignment algorithm and read length used, and BlackOPs allows users to generate a blacklist specific to their experimental setup. We queried the dbSNP and COSMIC variant databases and found numerous variants indistinguishable from mapping errors. We demonstrate how filtering against blacklist positions reduces the number of potential false variants using an RNA-seq glioblastoma cell line data set. In summary, accounting for mapping-caused variants tuned to experimental setups reduces false positives and, therefore, improves genome characterization by high-throughput sequencing.
PMCID: PMC3799449  PMID: 23935067
15.  Improving mapping and SNP-calling performance in multiplexed targeted next-generation sequencing 
BMC Genomics  2012;13:417.
Compared to classical genotyping, targeted next-generation sequencing (tNGS) can be custom-designed to interrogate entire genomic regions of interest, in order to detect novel as well as known variants. To bring down the per-sample cost, one approach is to pool barcoded NGS libraries before sample enrichment. Still, we lack a complete understanding of how this multiplexed tNGS approach and the varying performance of the ever-evolving analytical tools can affect the quality of variant discovery. Therefore, we evaluated the impact of different software tools and analytical approaches on the discovery of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in multiplexed tNGS data. To generate our own test model, we combined a sequence capture method with NGS in three experimental stages of increasing complexity (E. coli genes, multiplexed E. coli, and multiplexed HapMap BRCA1/2 regions).
We successfully enriched barcoded NGS libraries instead of genomic DNA, achieving reproducible coverage profiles (Pearson correlation coefficients of up to 0.99) across multiplexed samples, with <10% strand bias. However, the SNP calling quality was substantially affected by the choice of tools and mapping strategy. With the aim of reducing computational requirements, we compared conventional whole-genome mapping and SNP-calling with a new faster approach: target-region mapping with subsequent ‘read-backmapping’ to the whole genome to reduce the false detection rate. Consequently, we developed a combined mapping pipeline, which includes standard tools (BWA, SAMtools, etc.), and tested it on public HiSeq2000 exome data from the 1000 Genomes Project. Our pipeline saved 12 hours of run time per Hiseq2000 exome sample and detected ~5% more SNPs than the conventional whole genome approach. This suggests that more potential novel SNPs may be discovered using both approaches than with just the conventional approach.
We recommend applying our general ‘two-step’ mapping approach for more efficient SNP discovery in tNGS. Our study has also shown the benefit of computing inter-sample SNP-concordances and inspecting read alignments in order to attain more confident results.
PMCID: PMC3563481  PMID: 22913592
Two-stage mapping; Read-backmapping; Software performance; SNP discovery; Multiplexed targeted next-generation sequencing
16.  SNPdetector: A Software Tool for Sensitive and Accurate SNP Detection 
PLoS Computational Biology  2005;1(5):e53.
Identification of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and mutations is important for the discovery of genetic predisposition to complex diseases. PCR resequencing is the method of choice for de novo SNP discovery. However, manual curation of putative SNPs has been a major bottleneck in the application of this method to high-throughput screening. Therefore it is critical to develop a more sensitive and accurate computational method for automated SNP detection. We developed a software tool, SNPdetector, for automated identification of SNPs and mutations in fluorescence-based resequencing reads. SNPdetector was designed to model the process of human visual inspection and has a very low false positive and false negative rate. We demonstrate the superior performance of SNPdetector in SNP and mutation analysis by comparing its results with those derived by human inspection, PolyPhred (a popular SNP detection tool), and independent genotype assays in three large-scale investigations. The first study identified and validated inter- and intra-subspecies variations in 4,650 traces of 25 inbred mouse strains that belong to either the Mus musculus species or the M. spretus species. Unexpected heterozgyosity in CAST/Ei strain was observed in two out of 1,167 mouse SNPs. The second study identified 11,241 candidate SNPs in five ENCODE regions of the human genome covering 2.5 Mb of genomic sequence. Approximately 50% of the candidate SNPs were selected for experimental genotyping; the validation rate exceeded 95%. The third study detected ENU-induced mutations (at 0.04% allele frequency) in 64,896 traces of 1,236 zebra fish. Our analysis of three large and diverse test datasets demonstrated that SNPdetector is an effective tool for genome-scale research and for large-sample clinical studies. SNPdetector runs on Unix/Linux platform and is available publicly (
Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) are an abundant and important class of heritable genetic variations, and many of them contribute to genetic diseases. Accurate and automated detection of SNPs as heterozygous alleles in fluorescence-based sequencing traces from diploid DNA samples is challenging because of the low signal-to-noise ratio in the data, and because of sequencing artifacts associated with the various DNA sequencing chemistries.
The authors of this publication have developed a new computer program, SNPdetector, that improves upon existing software tools. The main design principle of SNPdetector was to model the process of human visual inspection of experienced analysts. The new tool is able to cut down significantly on both false positive and false negative discovery rates. Good performance can be achieved, without the need for retraining, in substantially different datasets such as SNP discovery in human resequencing data, mutation discovery in zebra fish candidate genes, and discovery of inter- and intra-subspecies variations in inbred mouse strains. The results demonstrate that this software tool is suitable for the automation of SNP discovery in diploid sequencing traces, and permits a substantial reduction of costly and laborious visual data analysis.
PMCID: PMC1274293  PMID: 16261194
17.  An Integrated SNP Mining and Utilization (ISMU) Pipeline for Next Generation Sequencing Data 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(7):e101754.
Open source single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) discovery pipelines for next generation sequencing data commonly requires working knowledge of command line interface, massive computational resources and expertise which is a daunting task for biologists. Further, the SNP information generated may not be readily used for downstream processes such as genotyping. Hence, a comprehensive pipeline has been developed by integrating several open source next generation sequencing (NGS) tools along with a graphical user interface called Integrated SNP Mining and Utilization (ISMU) for SNP discovery and their utilization by developing genotyping assays. The pipeline features functionalities such as pre-processing of raw data, integration of open source alignment tools (Bowtie2, BWA, Maq, NovoAlign and SOAP2), SNP prediction (SAMtools/SOAPsnp/CNS2snp and CbCC) methods and interfaces for developing genotyping assays. The pipeline outputs a list of high quality SNPs between all pairwise combinations of genotypes analyzed, in addition to the reference genome/sequence. Visualization tools (Tablet and Flapjack) integrated into the pipeline enable inspection of the alignment and errors, if any. The pipeline also provides a confidence score or polymorphism information content value with flanking sequences for identified SNPs in standard format required for developing marker genotyping (KASP and Golden Gate) assays. The pipeline enables users to process a range of NGS datasets such as whole genome re-sequencing, restriction site associated DNA sequencing and transcriptome sequencing data at a fast speed. The pipeline is very useful for plant genetics and breeding community with no computational expertise in order to discover SNPs and utilize in genomics, genetics and breeding studies. The pipeline has been parallelized to process huge datasets of next generation sequencing. It has been developed in Java language and is available at as a standalone free software.
PMCID: PMC4086967  PMID: 25003610
18.  Generation of SNP datasets for orangutan population genomics using improved reduced-representation sequencing and direct comparisons of SNP calling algorithms 
BMC Genomics  2014;15:16.
High-throughput sequencing has opened up exciting possibilities in population and conservation genetics by enabling the assessment of genetic variation at genome-wide scales. One approach to reduce genome complexity, i.e. investigating only parts of the genome, is reduced-representation library (RRL) sequencing. Like similar approaches, RRL sequencing reduces ascertainment bias due to simultaneous discovery and genotyping of single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and does not require reference genomes. Yet, generating such datasets remains challenging due to laboratory and bioinformatical issues. In the laboratory, current protocols require improvements with regards to sequencing homologous fragments to reduce the number of missing genotypes. From the bioinformatical perspective, the reliance of most studies on a single SNP caller disregards the possibility that different algorithms may produce disparate SNP datasets.
We present an improved RRL (iRRL) protocol that maximizes the generation of homologous DNA sequences, thus achieving improved genotyping-by-sequencing efficiency. Our modifications facilitate generation of single-sample libraries, enabling individual genotype assignments instead of pooled-sample analysis. We sequenced ~1% of the orangutan genome with 41-fold median coverage in 31 wild-born individuals from two populations. SNPs and genotypes were called using three different algorithms. We obtained substantially different SNP datasets depending on the SNP caller. Genotype validations revealed that the Unified Genotyper of the Genome Analysis Toolkit and SAMtools performed significantly better than a caller from CLC Genomics Workbench (CLC). Of all conflicting genotype calls, CLC was only correct in 17% of the cases. Furthermore, conflicting genotypes between two algorithms showed a systematic bias in that one caller almost exclusively assigned heterozygotes, while the other one almost exclusively assigned homozygotes.
Our enhanced iRRL approach greatly facilitates genotyping-by-sequencing and thus direct estimates of allele frequencies. Our direct comparison of three commonly used SNP callers emphasizes the need to question the accuracy of SNP and genotype calling, as we obtained considerably different SNP datasets depending on caller algorithms, sequencing depths and filtering criteria. These differences affected scans for signatures of natural selection, but will also exert undue influences on demographic inferences. This study presents the first effort to generate a population genomic dataset for wild-born orangutans with known population provenance.
PMCID: PMC3897891  PMID: 24405840
Next-generation sequencing; Single-nucleotide polymorphisms; Reduced-representation libraries; Bioinformatics; GATK; SAMtools; CLC genomics workbench; Great apes
19.  Evaluation of Allele-Specific Somatic Changes of Genome-Wide Association Study Susceptibility Alleles in Human Colorectal Cancers 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e37672.
Tumors frequently exhibit loss of tumor suppressor genes or allelic gains of activated oncogenes. A significant proportion of cancer susceptibility loci in the mouse show somatic losses or gains consistent with the presence of a tumor susceptibility or resistance allele. Thus, allele-specific somatic gains or losses at loci may demarcate the presence of resistance or susceptibility alleles. The goal of this study was to determine if previously mapped susceptibility loci for colorectal cancer show evidence of allele-specific somatic events in colon tumors.
We performed quantitative genotyping of 16 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) showing statistically significant association with colorectal cancer in published genome-wide association studies (GWAS). We genotyped 194 paired normal and colorectal tumor DNA samples and 296 paired validation samples to investigate these SNPs for allele-specific somatic gains and losses. We combined analysis of our data with published data for seven of these SNPs.
No statistically significant evidence for allele-specific somatic selection was observed for the tested polymorphisms in the discovery set. The rs6983267 variant, which has shown preferential loss of the non-risk T allele and relative gain of the risk G allele in previous studies, favored relative gain of the G allele in the combined discovery and validation samples (corrected p-value = 0.03). When we combined our data with published allele-specific imbalance data for this SNP, the G allele of rs6983267 showed statistically significant evidence of relative retention (p-value = 2.06×10−4).
Our results suggest that the majority of variants identified as colon cancer susceptibility alleles through GWAS do not exhibit somatic allele-specific imbalance in colon tumors. Our data confirm previously published results showing allele-specific imbalance for rs6983267. These results indicate that allele-specific imbalance of cancer susceptibility alleles may not be a common phenomenon in colon cancer.
PMCID: PMC3357346  PMID: 22629442
20.  Feature-based classifiers for somatic mutation detection in tumour–normal paired sequencing data 
Bioinformatics  2011;28(2):167-175.
Motivation: The study of cancer genomes now routinely involves using next-generation sequencing technology (NGS) to profile tumours for single nucleotide variant (SNV) somatic mutations. However, surprisingly few published bioinformatics methods exist for the specific purpose of identifying somatic mutations from NGS data and existing tools are often inaccurate, yielding intolerably high false prediction rates. As such, the computational problem of accurately inferring somatic mutations from paired tumour/normal NGS data remains an unsolved challenge.
Results: We present the comparison of four standard supervised machine learning algorithms for the purpose of somatic SNV prediction in tumour/normal NGS experiments. To evaluate these approaches (random forest, Bayesian additive regression tree, support vector machine and logistic regression), we constructed 106 features representing 3369 candidate somatic SNVs from 48 breast cancer genomes, originally predicted with naive methods and subsequently revalidated to establish ground truth labels. We trained the classifiers on this data (consisting of 1015 true somatic mutations and 2354 non-somatic mutation positions) and conducted a rigorous evaluation of these methods using a cross-validation framework and hold-out test NGS data from both exome capture and whole genome shotgun platforms. All learning algorithms employing predictive discriminative approaches with feature selection improved the predictive accuracy over standard approaches by statistically significant margins. In addition, using unsupervised clustering of the ground truth ‘false positive’ predictions, we noted several distinct classes and present evidence suggesting non-overlapping sources of technical artefacts illuminating important directions for future study.
Availability: Software called MutationSeq and datasets are available from
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
PMCID: PMC3259434  PMID: 22084253
21.  Association studies using family pools of outcrossing crops based on allele-frequency estimates from DNA sequencing 
Key message
We propose a method in which GBS data can be conveniently analyzed without calling genotypes.
F2 families are frequently used in breeding of outcrossing species, for instance to obtain trait measurements on plots. We propose to perform association studies by obtaining a matching “family genotype” from sequencing a pooled sample of the family, and to directly use allele frequencies computed from sequence read-counts for mapping. We show that, under additivity assumptions, there is a linear relationship between the family phenotype and family allele frequency, and that a regression of family phenotype on family allele frequency will estimate twice the allele substitution effect at a locus. However, medium-to-low sequencing depth causes underestimation of the true allele substitution effect. An expression for this underestimation is derived for the case that parents are diploid, such that F2 families have up to four dosages of every allele. Using simulation studies, estimation of the allele effect from F2-family pools was verified and it was shown that the underestimation of the allele effect is correctly described. The optimal design for an association study when sequencing budget would be fixed is obtained using large sample size and lower sequence depth, and using higher SNP density (resulting in higher LD with causative mutations) and lower sequencing depth. Therefore, association studies using genotyping by sequencing are optimal and use low sequencing depth per sample. The developed framework for association studies using allele frequencies from sequencing can be modified for other types of family pools and is also directly applicable for association studies in polyploids.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00122-014-2300-4) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4035547  PMID: 24668443
22.  Genome-Wide Inference of Ancestral Recombination Graphs 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(5):e1004342.
The complex correlation structure of a collection of orthologous DNA sequences is uniquely captured by the “ancestral recombination graph” (ARG), a complete record of coalescence and recombination events in the history of the sample. However, existing methods for ARG inference are computationally intensive, highly approximate, or limited to small numbers of sequences, and, as a consequence, explicit ARG inference is rarely used in applied population genomics. Here, we introduce a new algorithm for ARG inference that is efficient enough to apply to dozens of complete mammalian genomes. The key idea of our approach is to sample an ARG of chromosomes conditional on an ARG of chromosomes, an operation we call “threading.” Using techniques based on hidden Markov models, we can perform this threading operation exactly, up to the assumptions of the sequentially Markov coalescent and a discretization of time. An extension allows for threading of subtrees instead of individual sequences. Repeated application of these threading operations results in highly efficient Markov chain Monte Carlo samplers for ARGs. We have implemented these methods in a computer program called ARGweaver. Experiments with simulated data indicate that ARGweaver converges rapidly to the posterior distribution over ARGs and is effective in recovering various features of the ARG for dozens of sequences generated under realistic parameters for human populations. In applications of ARGweaver to 54 human genome sequences from Complete Genomics, we find clear signatures of natural selection, including regions of unusually ancient ancestry associated with balancing selection and reductions in allele age in sites under directional selection. The patterns we observe near protein-coding genes are consistent with a primary influence from background selection rather than hitchhiking, although we cannot rule out a contribution from recurrent selective sweeps.
Author Summary
The unusual and complex correlation structure of population samples of genetic sequences presents a fundamental statistical challenge that pervades nearly all areas of population genetics. Historical recombination events produce an intricate network of intertwined genealogies, which impedes demography inference, the detection of natural selection, association mapping, and other applications. It is possible to capture these complex relationships using a representation called the ancestral recombination graph (ARG), which provides a complete description of coalescence and recombination events in the history of the sample. However, previous methods for ARG inference have not been adequately fast and accurate for practical use with large-scale genomic sequence data. In this article, we introduce a new algorithm for ARG inference that has vastly improved scaling properties. Our algorithm is implemented in a computer program called ARGweaver, which is fast enough to be applied to sequences megabases in length. With the aid of a large computer cluster, ARGweaver can be used to sample full ARGs for entire mammalian genome sequences. We show that ARGweaver performs well in simulation experiments and demonstrate that it can be used to provide new insights about both demographic processes and natural selection when applied to real human genome sequence data.
PMCID: PMC4022496  PMID: 24831947
23.  MixClone: a mixture model for inferring tumor subclonal populations 
BMC Genomics  2015;16(Suppl 2):S1.
Tumor genomes are often highly heterogeneous, consisting of genomes from multiple subclonal types. Complete characterization of all subclonal types is a fundamental need in tumor genome analysis. With the advancement of next-generation sequencing, computational methods have recently been developed to infer tumor subclonal populations directly from cancer genome sequencing data. Most of these methods are based on sequence information from somatic point mutations, However, the accuracy of these algorithms depends crucially on the quality of the somatic mutations returned by variant calling algorithms, and usually requires a deep coverage to achieve a reasonable level of accuracy.
We describe a novel probabilistic mixture model, MixClone, for inferring the cellular prevalences of subclonal populations directly from whole genome sequencing of paired normal-tumor samples. MixClone integrates sequence information of somatic copy number alterations and allele frequencies within a unified probabilistic framework. We demonstrate the utility of the method using both simulated and real cancer sequencing datasets, and show that it significantly outperforms existing methods for inferring tumor subclonal populations. The MixClone package is written in Python and is publicly available at
The probabilistic mixture model proposed here provides a new framework for subclonal analysis based on cancer genome sequencing data. By applying the method to both simulated and real cancer sequencing data, we show that integrating sequence information from both somatic copy number alterations and allele frequencies can significantly improve the accuracy of inferring tumor subclonal populations.
PMCID: PMC4331709  PMID: 25707430
Cancer genomics; Subclonal inference; Whole genome sequencing; Somatic copy number alteration; Allele frequency; Mixture model
24.  SNPsea: an algorithm to identify cell types, tissues and pathways affected by risk loci 
Bioinformatics  2014;30(17):2496-2497.
Summary: We created a fast, robust and general C++ implementation of a single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) set enrichment algorithm to identify cell types, tissues and pathways affected by risk loci. It tests trait-associated genomic loci for enrichment of specificity to conditions (cell types, tissues and pathways). We use a non-parametric statistical approach to compute empirical P-values by comparison with null SNP sets. As a proof of concept, we present novel applications of our method to four sets of genome-wide significant SNPs associated with red blood cell count, multiple sclerosis, celiac disease and HDL cholesterol.
Availability and implementation:
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
PMCID: PMC4147889  PMID: 24813542
25.  Sequencing genes in silico using single nucleotide polymorphisms 
BMC Genetics  2012;13:6.
The advent of high throughput sequencing technology has enabled the 1000 Genomes Project Pilot 3 to generate complete sequence data for more than 906 genes and 8,140 exons representing 697 subjects. The 1000 Genomes database provides a critical opportunity for further interpreting disease associations with single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) discovered from genetic association studies. Currently, direct sequencing of candidate genes or regions on a large number of subjects remains both cost- and time-prohibitive.
To accelerate the translation from discovery to functional studies, we propose an in silico gene sequencing method (ISS), which predicts phased sequences of intragenic regions, using SNPs. The key underlying idea of our method is to infer diploid sequences (a pair of phased sequences/alleles) at every functional locus utilizing the deep sequencing data from the 1000 Genomes Project and SNP data from the HapMap Project, and to build prediction models using flanking SNPs. Using this method, we have developed a database of prediction models for 611 known genes. Sequence prediction accuracy for these genes is 96.26% on average (ranges 79%-100%). This database of prediction models can be enhanced and scaled up to include new genes as the 1000 Genomes Project sequences additional genes on additional individuals. Applying our predictive model for the KCNJ11 gene to the Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium (WTCCC) Type 2 diabetes cohort, we demonstrate how the prediction of phased sequences inferred from GWAS SNP genotype data can be used to facilitate interpretation and identify a probable functional mechanism such as protein changes.
Prior to the general availability of routine sequencing of all subjects, the ISS method proposed here provides a time- and cost-effective approach to broadening the characterization of disease associated SNPs and regions, and facilitating the prioritization of candidate genes for more detailed functional and mechanistic studies.
PMCID: PMC3283449  PMID: 22289434
In silico; SNPs; 1000 Genomes Project; multi-allelic gene; imputation

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