Mapping Your Reads: damapper


OK, so there are over 100 different read mappers out there.  Why another one?  First, its faster than all the rest on long noisy reads while being equally sensitive to the best, second, because it uses a chain model of alignments that accounts for and reveals the frequent drop outs in quality within a Pacbio read, and third, because it actually estimates and reports those regions of reads that involve repeat elements and their approximate copy number in the genome to which they are being mapped.  Finally, I was just curious as to whether the daligner‘s sort and merge k-mer strategy would be competitive with the prevailing paradigm of using FM-indices or Suffix tree/arrays.  The answer is that it is, albeit it depends on M, the amount of memory available, and G, the size of the reference genome.  The larger G, the slower damapper becomes relative to index-based mappers.  Morever, while damapper will run in any reasonable (e.g. 16Gb) amount of memory, it runs faster the more memory there is available.  For example, with 48Gb, damapper is 1.8 times faster than BWA on the human genome, 15 times faster on the fly genome, and 36 times faster on E.Coli.  Performance will be reported on more extensively in a subsequent post.

So “damapper REF DB.1 DB.2” will map the reads in blocks 1 and 2 of DB to a reference genome  REF.  It really doesn’t care if REF is a .dam or a .db, and it will handle whatever size it happens to be in the amount of memory available or specified with the -M option.  On the other hand the DB blocks must contain sequences that are not too long, i.e reads only, and is expected to be of an appropriate block size (e.g. 250Mbp).  The difference between damapper and daligner is that damapper is looking for the best or near best map of the read to a location in REF, whereas daligner will find every possible local alignment between the reads in DB.1 and DB.2 including all repeat induced LA’s.  Thus damapper has much less work to do and so can be and is much faster.

Most of the parameters to damapper are the same as for the daligner, i.e. -v, -b, -k, -t, -M, -e, -s, and -m, but with a much larger default of -k (20) and a higher correlation for -e (.85), and the -w, -h, and -l parameters are not needed.  Like daligner, damapper finds local alignments consistent with the error rate -e, and does not extend these alignments into regions where the sequences are no longer reasonably correlating at the specified rate.  This means that if a Pacbio read has, say, two very low quality regions internal to the read, a frequent occurrence in such data, then damapper will find and report a chain of 3 local alignments and not a single alignment that is basically nonsense in the two drop out regions.  This is distinctly different from other mappers that force an alignment through these regions.  This seems to my mind a more principled approach and identifies the fact that parts of a read are very low quality.  I’m not sure why seeing 2,000 garbage bases in a forced alignment to the reference sequence is valuable🙂.

So a damapper mapping of a read is a chain of one or more local alignments to a corresponding contig of the reference.  Occasionally reads are chimers, in which case one wants to see a mapping of each of the two distinct parts of the read.  damapper accomplishes this by finding the best chain mapping for the read, then finding the best mapping to any portion of the read not spanned by the first chain, and so on, until all significant portions of the read are mapped (if possible).  Moreover, damapper will report other good matches to a segment if requested with the -n option.  For example, with -n.95, it reports all matches whose score is within 95% of the best score covering a given portion of a read.

Apart from the -n option, the other options unique to damapper are the -C, -N, and -p flags.  By default, damapper returns .las files where the A-reads are the mapped reads, and the B-reads are the contigs of the reference.  That is, “damapper REF DB.1 DB.2” will output DB.1.REF.M1.las, DB.1.REF.M2.las, … DB.2.REF.Mn.las, where T is the number of threads it is run with (specified by the -T option, default 4).  The T files for each block can be combined into a single .las file with for example “LAcat DB.1.REF.M# >DB.REF.1.las“.  If you would like to see the mapping from the point of view of the reference contigs, specifying the -C option, will further produce files of the form REF.DB.1.C1.las, … REF.DB.2.Cn.las, where the A-reads are the contigs of the reference, and the B-reads are the mapped reads.  Specifying -N suppresses the production of the .M#.las files in case you only want to see the coverage of the contigs by reads.

As is customary, there is an HPC script generator, HPC.damapper, that will generate all the calls necessary to produce the mapping of reads to contigs for blocks of a data set (and vice versa if -C is set).  For example, “HPC.damapper -C -n.95 REF DB” will produce DB.#.REF.las and REF.DB.#.las where DB.# is a block of DB.  For example, if DB has 4 blocks then HPC.damapper generates a script equivalent to the following:

# Damapper jobs (1)
damapper -v -C -n0.95 REF DB.1 DB.2 DB.3 DB.4
# Catenate jobs (8)
LAsort -a DB.1.REF.M*.las && LAcat DB.1.REF.M#.S >DB.1.REF.las
LAsort -a DB.2.REF.M*.las && LAcat DB.2.REF.M#.S >DB.2.REF.las
LAsort -a DB.3.REF.M*.las && LAcat DB.3.REF.M#.S >DB.3.REF.las
LAsort -a DB.4.REF.M*.las && LAcat DB.4.REF.M#.S >DB.1.REF.las
LAsort -a REF.DB.1.C*.las && LAmerge -a REF.DB.1 REF.DB.1.C*.S.las
LAsort -a REF.DB.2.C*.las && LAmerge -a REF.DB.2 REF.DB.2.C*.S.las
LAsort -a REF.DB.3.C*.las && LAmerge -a REF.DB.3 REF.DB.3.C*.S.las
LAsort -a REF.DB.4.C*.las && LAmerge -a REF.DB.4 REF.DB.4.C*.S.las
# Check all .las files (optional but recommended)
# Cleanup all intermediate .las files
rm DB.*.REF.*.las REF.DB.*.*.las

Its important to note that all the commands that deal with .las files, i.e. LAsort, LAmerge, LAcheck, LAshow, and LAdump have been upgraded to properly handle damapper-produced .las files that encode chains of LAs.  Internally, Dazzler software can distinguish between .las files that encode chains and those that don’t (e.g. as produced by daligner or datander).  For sorting, chains are treated as a unit, and sorted on the basis of the first LA.  Display commands will indicate chains when present, and LAcheck checks chains and their internal encoding for validity.  Another thing to note very carefully, is that chains are best sorted with the -a option and not the default.  This is particularly important for files produced in response to the -C option.  For example, to produce a mapping of all reads to REF in say REF.DB.las, one should merge the relevant files above with “LAmerge -va REF DB REF.DB.*.las”  One can then see how the reference sequence is covered by the database by then opening REF.DB.las in DaViewer.

In developing the chaining algorithm for damapper, it became obvious that at little additional overhead one could estimate the repetitiveness of the sequence in a region of a read simply by counting how many (sub-optimal) chains covered the region.  The -p option requests that damapper produce a repeat profile track for each read based on these counts which roughly estimate the repetitiveness of a read segment within the underlying genome.  That is, for each trace-point sized interval (established by the -s parameter) the number of times, c, this interval is involved in a distinct alignment to the reference is estimated.  0 is recorded for segments that don’t match anything in the reference, 1 for segments that match uniquely, and otherwise floor(log10c/10) up to a cap of 40 corresponding to 10,000 copies.  Observe carefully that the track has the same form as intrinsic quality values: a vector of small byte-sized integers for each trace point interval.  These vectors can be output by DBdump with the -p option and DaViewer is able to graphically display them.  These profiles should make it obvious when a read does not have a unique location in a reference sequence due to its being entirely or almost entirely repetitive.  I think having this information is critical in any subsequent analysis.

Seeing Your Reads: DaViewer


The old adage that “A picture is worth a 1000 words” might well be stated today to as “A visualization of your data is worth a 1000 print outs”.  While there are many programs in the Dazzler system to produce ASCII text displays of your reads and their overlaps with each other, I have found that it is hugely more powerful to look at pile-o-grams and visualize the quality of the matches, the intrinsic QVs of a read, and any mask intervals produced by programs such as the repeat maskers or the forthcoming scrubber.  To this end I’m releasing today DaViewer that is a Qt-implemented user interface for seeing Dazzler piles and associated information.  Unlike other modules, this one does have a dependency on the Qt library, which you can download and install for free here.  I developed it under Qt5.4 and have recently tested it with Qt5.6 (latest version) under Mac OS X.  The library and my C++ code should compile and run under any OS, but this has not been tested, so I’d appreciate reports of porting problems, and of course, any patches.  In this post I give a brief overview of what the DaViewer can do, and refer you to the manual page for detailed documentation.

In brief, DaViewer allows you to view any subset of the information in a given .las file of local alignments computed by the daligner or the forth coming damapper, and any track information associated with the read database(s) that were compared to produce the local alignments (LAs).  As an example here is a screen showing several overlap piles (click on the image to see a bigger view of it):

Screen Shot 2016-05-29 at 1.42.44 PM The viewer has a concept of a palette that controls the color of all the elements on a screen and you can set this up according to how you like to see the data.  I prefer a black background with primary colors for the foreground, but in the example below I set the palette so that the background is white and adjusted the foreground colors accordingly:Screen Shot 2016-05-29 at 1.44.13 PMWith the query panel you can zoom to any given read or range of reads, and when you zoom in far enough for the display to be meaningful you see (a) a heat map displaying the quality of all trace point interval matches, (b) a “tri-state” color map of the quality values of read 19 for each trace point (as computed by DASqv), and (c) a grid-spacer (if the appropriate option is turned on).  Moreover, you can ask the viewer to chain together local alignments that are consistently spaced with a dashed line connecting them and a color-coded ramp indicating the compression or expansion of the spacing.  For example, below I queried read “19”: Screen Shot 2016-05-29 at 2.27.25 PMYou can see the grid-lines spaced every 1000bp, compressed dash lines across what must be a low quality gap in the read between bases 2000 and 3000, and numerous expanded dashes across what are most likely low quality gaps in matching B-reads.  The settings in the palette dialog producing this view were as follows:

Screen Shot 2016-05-29 at 2.28.06 PMScreen Shot 2016-05-29 at 2.28.57 PM

In the panel at right the “Tri-State” option is chosen for “Show qual qv’s” and the colors are set so that trace point intervals with quality values not greater than 23 (i.e. “Good”) are colored green,  intervals with values not less than 30 (i.e. “Bad”) are colored red, and otherwise the interval is colored yellow.  Further note that you can also ask to see read’s QV’s projected on to the B-reads of the pile, producing a view like this:

Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 7.39.53 AMA variety of programs such as DBdust, REPmask, TANmask, and the forthcoming DAStrim, all produce interval tracks associated with the underlying DB(s).  When a new .las file is opened with daviewer the program automatically searches the specified DBs for any interval tracks associated with them and loads them for (possible) display.  The found tracks are listed in the “Masks” tab of the palette dialog as illustrated immediately below.

Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 7.49.11 AMScreen Shot 2016-06-01 at 7.48.17 AM

In the palette tab at left each available interval track or mask is listed.  One can choose whether a track is displayed, on which register line, its color, and whether or not you want to see the mask on the B-reads as well.  The tracks are displayed in the order given and the order can be adjusted with drag-and-drop initiated by depressing the up/down arrow at the far left.

Finally, one can record all the settings of a particular palette arrangement in what is called a view.  At the bottom of the palette dialog is a combo-box that allows one to select any saved view, and the creation of views, their updating, and removal are controlled by the Add, Update, and Delete buttons, respectively.  In the palette example above, a view call “trim” has been created and that as seen in “Quality”-tab has a different heat map for trace interval segments.  The screen capture below shows an example of this view and further illustrates the display of tracks.Screen Shot 2016-05-30 at 5.07.03 PMOne should also know that clicking on items in the display area produce popups with information about the object, clicking below the coordinate axis at bottom zooms in or out (shift-click) by sqrt(2), and grabbing a background area allows you to scroll by hand (as will as with the scroll widgets).

Finally, one can have multiple, independently scrollable and zoomable views of the same data set by clicking the “Duplicate” button (+-sign in the tool bar at upper-left), and one can further arrange them into a tiling of your screen by clicking the “Tile” button (again in the tool bar).  As an example, the (entire) screen capture below was created by hitting “Duplicate” 3 times, then “Tile”, and then zooming and scrolling the four individual views.

Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 10.56.21 AMIn closing, DaViewer is a full featured and flexible visualization tool for the specific task of seeing your Pacbio reads, their quality, and their LAs with other reads.  It has so many features that a man page will take a while for me to produce.  In the meantime, I will hope that you can just open up a data set and figure it out by trial and error button pushing and clicking.  Unlike other Dazzler modules it is after all a GUI, have you ever read the Microsoft Word manual?

DB’s and DAM’s : What’s the difference?


The purpose of this post is to succinctly clarify the differences between Dazzler data bases or DB’s, and Dazzler maps or DAM’s and to further clarify a number of the most common misunderstandings users have about them.  We start with a brief review:

A Dazzler data base or DB is the organizing data framework for the system (original post here).  It holds all information about Pacbio reads at the start of and during their processing into an assembly by Dazzler modules.  Most importantly the initial sequencing read data must be imported into a DB with fasta2DB and quiva2DB before any Dazzler programs such as the daligner can be applied, and the input must be in Pacbio’s format.  A key feature is that you can always get your data back out of a DB exactly as you imported it with DB2fasta and DB2quiva, meaning that no data external to the system need be kept saving you (a lot of) disk space.  Since many users use only selected components of the system, I also made it as easy as possible to get all relevant information out of the system with programs like DBdump and LAdump.

Somewhat later on (original post here), I introduced a Dazzler map or DAM, which is very much like a DB but designed to hold the scaffolds of a reference genome such as hg38 or Rel6 of the fly genome.  This variation was introduced so that the daligner could be used to compare reads to a reference genome.  But it also allowed other interesting possibilities such as comparing a genome against itself to detect the repetitive elements within it.  The NCBI standard .fasta file format is imported into a DAM with fasta2DAM, where the .fasta format headers can be any string, and each entry is interpreted as a scaffold of contigs where runs of N’s are interpreted as scaffold gaps whose mean length is equal to the length of the run.  The DAM stores each contig sequence as an entry and remembers how they are organized into scaffolds.  In symmetry with DB import/export, DAM2fasta recreates the original input, implying the DAM need be the only record on your computer of the genome reference.

So both data objects contain a collection of DNA sequences and at this level they appear identical.  But there are differences and we enumerate them below:

  • DB: .fasta headers must be in Pacbio format and are parsed to obtain                  well, pulse range, and quality score.
  • DAM: .fasta headers are not interpreted.
  • DB: may contain QV quality streams needed by Quiver for consensus
  • DAM: cannot contain QV quality streams.
  • DAM: interprets N’s in input sequences as scaffold gaps and stores said as a collection of contig sequences, retaining the information needed to restore the scaffold.
  • DB: does not allow N’s in the input sequence.

Until recently the system expected that each imported Pacbio file contained the data from a single SMRT cell and hence had exactly the same header sequence save for the well number, pulse range, and quality score.  Quite a number of users however, placed the data from a number of SMRT cells all in the same .fasta file, and then were disappointed when fasta2DB didn’t allow them to import it.  But they discovered that fasta2DAM would accept such input just fine as it makes no assumptions about the .fasta headers.  Since a DAM can be used in almost every place a DB can, this might seem like a good solution, but its not because one can no longer trim the data (see DBsplit) so that only the best read in each well is used in downstream processing.  As of this post, fasta2DB has been upgraded so that a user can pass it files with multiple SMRT cell data sets in it, as long as the entries for each SMRT cell are consecutive in the file.  So please:

Use a DB for your Pacbio reads, and use a DAM for all secondary sequence data such as reference genomes.

A final point that some may have missed, is that the import routines are incremental.  That is, you can import data into a DB or DAM over any number of distinct calls, where the data in each new file imported is appended to the growing DB or DAM.  While its not so important for a DAM, this feature is very valuable for a Pacbio shotgun sequencing project where many SMRT cells are being produced over a period of days or weeks.  You can add each new SMRT cell to your DB as it is output from the instrument.  Moreover, this is performed efficiently: in time proportional to the size of the new data (and not the size of the DB).  Moreover, all the downstream programs and scripts are also incremental so for example you can be performing the time consuming daligner overlap computation as the data arrives, thus spreading the CPU time over the sequencing time so that when that last SMRT cell comes off the machine, you will have a relatively short wait until you have all the overlaps that you need for the relatively rapid scrubbing and assembly steps.

Stay tuned, upcoming posts/releases:

DAMAPPER: an optimized version of daligner specifically for read mapping

DAVIEWER: a QT-based viewing tool for looking at read piles including quality and scrubbing information

DASCRUBBER: a complete end-to-end scrubber for removing all artifacts and low quality segments from your read data set (at last!).

Detecting and Masking Repeats


The daligner was specifically designed to find local alignments (LAs) between reads as opposed to overlaps where in each end of the alignment reaches an end of one or the other read.  This is a necessity because raw PacBio reads can have very low quality or even random segments at any position, and one cannot therefore expect an alignment through these regions.  Finding LAs instead of overlaps, allows the Dazzler suite to then analyze pile-ograms in order to detect and address these regions (recall that a pile for a read x is the set of all LAs where x is the A-read and a pile-ogram is a depiction of all the A-intervals covering x).  Computing LAs also implies that if a read x is from a region of DNA that has a relatively conserved repetitive element in it, then every copy of the element in any read of the shotgun data set will align with the relevant interval of x.  For example, given a 50X (=c) data set and a repeat that occurs 20 (=r) times in the genome, one should expect every occurrence of the repeat in a read to be covered on average by 1,000 (=rc) LA’s in its pile.  The pile-ogram below depicts such a repeat stack:

A small repeat stackWhat’s good about this is that the excessive depth of “stacked” LA’s clearly signals the repetitive element, its approximate copy number, and its approximate boundaries.  What’s bad about this is that the daligner can spend 95% or more of its time finding all the local alignments in these repeat stacks.  This observation raises two questions: (a) Is it worth finding them all, and (b) If not, how can we avoid doing so?

The answer to the first question is “no” (i.e., it is not worth finding them all) and our argument is as follows.  First recall, that daligner can accept any number of interval tracks that it uses to soft mask the reads.  That is, it will only seed/seek alignments in regions that are not masked, but will extend an alignment through a masked region if the the two sequences involved continue to be similar.  Next observe, that if a repetitive element is flanked by unique sequence and it is short enough that with high probability there is one or more spanning reads that cover the repeat and at least say 1Kbp of the unique flank on either side, then there is no consequence to soft masking this repeat as the spanning reads will provide a coherent assembly across it as shown in the figure below as the left (small) scenario.  For Pacbio reads this is generally true of any interspersed repeat of 10Kb or less.  If a repeat is compound or so large that there are no spanning reads for it (as shown in the right (large) scenario), then all current assemblers frankly fail to assemble the region involving it, and so in some sense Effect of soft-masking repeatsno harm is done by soft-masking the long repeats too. We therefore think that soft-masking the repetitive parts of reads is a good initial strategy for the down stream assembly problem: most of the genome will come together with long reads, the “overlap”/daligner stage of assembly will be 10 to 20 times faster, and the big repeats can still be solved in a subsequent post-process by analyzing the much smaller number of reads that were completely masked as repetitive.

So on to the second question, which is how does one efficiently build the needed repeat masks?  Consider taking the hypothetical 50X data set above and comparing every 1X block of this data set against itself.  First observe that doing so is 2% of all the comparisons that would normally be performed by daligner.  Second, observe that unique parts of a read will have on average about 1 LA covering them, whereas a segment from a repeat that occurs, say, 10 times in the genome will already have have 10 LA’s covering it and will appear as a repeat stack in a read’s pile-ogram.  The probability of having 10 or more LA’s covering a unique segment of a read is exceedingly low, so simply specifying a threshold, such as 10, above which a region is labelled repetitive is an effective strategy for identifying high-copy number repetitive elements.  This mask can then be used by the daligner when performing the remaining 98% of its comparisons.  The resulting suppression of purely repeat-induced LAs will speed things up 10-20 times at almost no degradation in the performance of a downstream assembler like Falcon or the Celera Assembler as argued earlier.

For a very lScreen Shot 2016-04-04 at 9.44.23 AMarge data set one may want to repeat this process at different coverage levels and with different thresholds in order to achieve greater efficiency.  For example, we have a 30X data set of a 30Gbp genome, that requires dividing the Dazzler DB into 3,600 250Mbp blocks.  We first run each block against itself (.008X vs .008X) and create a mask .rep1 with a threshold of 20, that detects only super-repetitive elements.  Next we compare every group of 10 consecutive blocks (.08X) against themselves soft-maskiScreen Shot 2016-04-04 at 9.44.35 AMng with .rep1, and create a mask .rep10 with a threshold of 15 to detect fairly abundant repetitive elements.  Then we compare every consecutive group of 100 blocks (.8X) against themselves soft-masking with .rep1 and .rep10, and create a mask .rep100 with threshold 10 used to further soft-mask the final all-against-all of the 3,600 blocks in the entire data set.  The figures interspersed within this paragraph illustrate a 1×1 and 5×5 schema for a hypothetical set of blocks.

To implement this strategy we have created the programs HPC.REPmask and REPmask as part of a new DAMASKER module.  “HPC.REPmask -g#1 -c#2” produces a job-based UNIX script suitable for an HPC cluster that:

  1. compares each consecutive #1 blocks against themselves,
  2. sorts and merges these into .las files for each block, and then
  3. calls “REPmask -c#2 -mrep#1” on each block and associated .las file to produce a block interval track or mask, with the name .rep#1, of any read region covered #2 or more times.

As a running example consider a hypothetical Dazzler data base D that is divided into 150 blocks and contains an estimated 50X coverage of the target genome.  Then 3 blocks of data contains 1X of the genome, and to realize a 1X versus 1X repeat mask, we need to compare every consecutive group of 3 blocks against each other and then produce a mask of all reads covered more than say 10 deep.  Calling “HPC.REPmask -g3 -c10 D” will produce a shell script to do this, where the script has the following form:

# Daligner jobs (150)
daligner D.1 D.1
daligner D.2 D.1 D.2
daligner D.3 D.1 D.2 D.3
daligner D.4 D.4
daligner D.5 D.4 D.5
daligner D.6 D.4 D.5 D.6

daligner D.148 D.148
daligner D.149 D.148 D.149
daligner D.150 D.148 D.149 D.150
# Initial sort & merge jobs (450)
LAsort D.1.D.1.*.las && LAmerge L1.1.1 D.1.D.1.*.S.las
LAsort D.1.D.2.*.las && LAmerge L1.1.2 D.1.D.2.*.S.las
LAsort D.1.D.3.*.las && LAmerge L1.1.3 D.1.D.3.*.S.las
LAsort D.2.D.1.*.las && LAmerge L1.2.1 D.2.D.1.*.S.las
LAsort D.2.D.2.*.las && LAmerge L1.2.2 D.2.D.2.*.S.las
LAsort D.2.D.3.*.las && LAmerge L1.2.3 D.2.D.3.*.S.las

LAsort D.150.D.150.*.las && LAmerge L1.150.150 D.150.D.150.*.S.las
# Level 1 merge jobs (150)
LAmerge D.R3.1 L1.1.1 L1.1.2 L1.1.3
LAmerge D.R3.2 L1.2.1 L1.2.2 L1.2.3
LAmerge D.R3.3 L1.3.1 L1.3.2 L1.3.3
LAmerge D.R3.4 L1.4.1 L1.4.2 L1.4.3
LAmerge D.R3.5 L1.5.1 L1.5.2 L1.5.3
LAmerge D.R3.6 L1.6.1 L1.6.2 L1.6.3

# REPmask jobs (50)
REPmask -c10 -mrep3 D D.R3.1 D.R3.2 D.R3.3
REPmask -c10 -mrep3 D D.R3.4 D.R3.5 D.R3.6
REPmask -c10 -mrep3 D D.R3.7 D.R3.8 D.R3.9

REPmask -c10 -mrep3 D D.R3.148 D.R3.149 D.R3.150
# Produce final mask for entirety of D
Catrack D rep3

So the above would pretty much be the end of this post if it were not for one other kind of repetitive element that haunts single-molecule data sets that sample the entire genome including the centromeres and telomeres, namely tandem satellites.  Back in the days of Sanger sequencing, such repeats were rarely seen as they were unclonable, but with single molecule reads we see and sample all the genome including these regions.  Tandem repeats are even nastier than interspersed repeats at creating deep stacks in a read’s pile-ogram because they align with themselves at every offset of the tandem element as well as with each other!  So our masking strategy actually starts by detecting and building a mask for tandem repeats in the data set.

A tandem repeat can be detected in a read by comparing the read against itself, with the slight augmentation of not allowing the underlying alignment algorithm to use the main diagonal of the edit matrix/graph.  When a tandem is present, it induces off-diagonal alignments at intervalTandem dot plots equal to the tandem element length.  That is, if the tandem is x10 then the prefix of the first n copies of x aligns with the suffix of the last n copies of x creating a ladder of n-1 alignments as seen in the dot plot accompanying this paragraph.  Comparing a read against itself is already possible in our framework with the -I option to daligner.  To detect tandems, we built a special version of daligner that we call datander that given a DB block, compares each read in the block only against itself and outputs these alignments.  We further developed the program TANmask to use these self-alignments to detect tandem regions to mask: namely, when the two aligned segments of a self-LA overlap, the union of the two segments marks a tandem region.  Lastly, the program HPC.TANmask generates a script generator to call datander, sort and merge the resulting self-LAs, and finally call TANmask on the results.  For example, “HPC.TANmask D” for the 50X database D introduced earlier produces a script of the form:

# Datander jobs (38)
datander D.1 D.2 D.3 D.4
datander D.5 D.6 D.7 D.8

datander D.149 D.150
# Sort & merge jobs (150)
LAsort D.1.T*.las && LAmerge D.T.1 D.1.T*.S.las
LAsort D.2.T*.las && LAmerge D.T.2 D.2.T*.S.las

LAsort D.150.T*.las && LAmerge D.T.150 D.150.T*.S.las
# TANmask jobs (38)
TANmask D D.T.1 D.T.2 D.T.3 D.T.4
TANmask D D.T.5 D.T.6 D.T.7 D.T.8

TANmask D D.T.149 D.T.150
# Produce final mask for entirety of D
Catrack D tan

One should note carefully, that tandem repeat masking should be performed before the interspersed repeat masking discussed at the beginning.  To conclude, we close with the example of the super large 30X database of a 30Gbp genome consisting of 3,600 blocks.  Assuming the DB is called, say Big, all the scripts for performing the repeat-masked “overlap” phase of assembly would be produced by invoking the commands:

HPC.TANmask Big
HPC.REPmask -g1 -c20 -mtan Big
HPC.REPmask -g10 -c15 -mtan -mrep1 Big
HPC.REPmask -g100 -c10 -mtan -mrep1 -mrep10 Big
HPC.daligner -mtan -mrep1 -mrep10 -mrep100 Big

The scripts produced are quite huge for a task of this scale and include a variety of integrity checks and cleanup commands not mentioned here.  A newcomer would best be served by gaining experience on a small data set with small blocks, and only proceeding to large production runs with these “HPC.<x>” scripts when one has confidence that they can manage such a pipeline 😄  In a subsequent post on performance/results I will present some timing studies of the impact of repeat masking on the overlap phase of assembly.

Intrinsic Quality Values


One of the most vexing problems with Pacbio data is that it is very difficult to understand the quality of a given small segment or region of a read.  The Q-scores that come out of the instrument are not particularly informative in this regard, their value seems to be mostly in indicating if a given base is better or worse than the bases neighboring it (and this is of importance to multi-aligners and consensus callers like Quiver).  I tried every way I could think of to aggregate these Q-scores over a say 100bp interval so as to arrive at an informative statistic about the overall quality of that 100bp stretch and failed.  But having this information is very important because over the course of a long 10-40Kbp read, the quality of the base calls varies significantly, where there are even long internal stretches that are essentially junk.  I illustrate a typical Pacbio read error profile to help you further understand why I think it is extremely important to understand the “regional” quality of a read.

Error profile of a typical long read.
My solution to determining read quality begins with the idea of a pile, which is the set of all alignments that involve a given read, say a, as the A-read in an alignment pair (a,b).  Recall that the HPCdaligner script arranges to sort all the alignments between reads found by daligner so that they are in order of A-read, then B-read, then B-orientation, etc.  In particular, this means that for a given read, say 103, one encounters all the alignments with 103 as the A-read in consecutive order in a .las file.  That is the 103-pile and in fact every pile can be collected and processed consecutively as one scans a .las file!  All post-overlap and pre-assembly analyses in the Dazzler suite are based on looking at read piles.

The figure below shows a pile in a graphical form I call a pile-ogram.  The long yellow bar at the top represents the A-read and every white bar below it represents the A-interval of an alignment with another read.  The brown tips indicate that the B-read continues but does not align with the A-read  (note that some white bars have brown tips, others do not).

Screen Shot 2015-11-06 at 6.07.01 PMRecall from the previous post on trace points, that for each alignment we record the number of differences in the alignment for each section between tick marks spaced Δ base pairs apart in A.  Daligner uses a default of Δ = 100, so the number of differences is also the percentage mismatch between the two reads over each 100bp stretch of the A-read (save possibly at the very beginning and very end of an alignment that spans only a part of a 100bp stretch).   In the pile-ogram below, we have color-coded each 100bp interval of each alignment according to the number of difference in the segment, where the heat map scale is given just above the pile-ogram.

Screen Shot 2015-11-06 at 9.40.26 PMIt should immediately be obvious that in the 100bp “columns” that are all orange, red, and purple, every B-read disagrees with the corresponding segment of the A-read and the clear inference is that the quality of the A-read is very low in that segment.  Going a little further, if a column has say 40 alignments covering it and the average error rate of these is 12%, then it is very unlikely that 50% or more of the 40 B-reads are worse than average in their portions of the alignment spanning the column and indeed we expect the average quality of this 50% to be quite stable, perhaps from 8-12%.  The variable part that mostly determines the color code must then be the quality of the A segment so a good proxy statistic for the quality of each 100bp segment of the A-read is the average match fidelity of the best say 25-50% of the alignments covering the segment.  In the figure below we now color code the segments of the A-read according to their intrinsic quality value.  We use the adjective “intrinsic” to emphasize that this statistic was derived solely from the read data set itself.

Screen Shot 2015-11-06 at 6.04.16 PMIn the case that there is a large drop out in the quality of an A-read, this tends to “break” local alignments as the alignment software cannot find a good correspondence with any B-read in this region.  The pile below illustrates this effect where it is clear all alignments are interrupted over the interval [2100,2200].

Screen Shot 2015-11-08 at 9.43.24 AMThe pile below shows an even larger low quality region that is over 4000bp long.  However, one cannot immediately conclude that the segments in question are low quality, as another possibility is that the read is a chimer, and the drop out is due to the presence of the chimer junction.  Typically such breaks are small as in the pile above.  To distinguish the two possibilities, one needs to see if the B-reads are the same on both sides of the gap and that the gap distance is consistent with the gaps implied in the B-reads.  In the pile below, alignment pairs that are so consistent, are indicated by dashed lines across the gap.  One sees that about 1/2 the pairs are consistent across the gap.  For the others, a careful analysis reveals that the B-reads are not long enough to actually span the 4Kbp gap, terminating before reaching the other side.

Screen Shot 2015-11-08 at 9.44.32 AMHopefully, the examples and exposition above make it clear that analyzing read piles is pretty interesting and informative.  We have built a complete research prototype pipeline that uses the intrinsic quality values and the piles to trim poor prefixes and suffixes of each read, to detect and break all chimeric reads, to remove all adaptamers missed by the Pacbio software, and to identify and patch low quality gaps.  I am still not completely happy with elements of the current scrubbing pipeline and so will not release all of it at this time.  However, the intrinsic quality value caller is stable and I am releasing it now, so that at least you can have an error profile for your reads at this time.  Perhaps you can build a better scrubber.

The command “DASqv -c40 Project.db Project.las” will produce an intrinsic quality track, “qual” in the files .Project.qual.anno and  In this example I was assuming that Project entailed 40X sequencing of a target genome and set the parameter -c accordingly.  While I could have tried to estimate the coverage of your project by looking at the piles, the assumption was that the user invariably knows this information and so can easily supply it.  For a given read, its quality vector has length ⌊ n/Δ ⌋ + 1 where Δ is the trace spacing (default 100), and it consists of one byte numbers between 0 and 50 where I capped the values at 50 as any segment with worse than an average 50% difference to its B-reads is obviously a hideously bad segment (two random DNA string will align with 52% differences).  As stated carefully previously, intrinsic quality values are statistics that correlate with the underlying quality, and not the actual error rate of the segment.  To help you calibrate this to the actual quality, DASqv can be asked to output a histogram of the match values and quality values with the -v option.  An example output, might be:

DASqv -c40 Project Project

Input:   28,347reads,   213,832,622 bases

Histogram of q-values (average 10 best)

         Input                 QV

50:     124591    0.2%       369417   17.2%

49:      30831    0.0%         1177    0.1%
48:      45052    0.1%         1304    0.1%
47:      55249    0.2%         1318    0.2%
46:      70125    0.3%         1576    0.3%
45:      88451    0.4%         1823    0.4%
44:     109586    0.6%         2019    0.5%
43:     138026    0.8%         2404    0.7%
42:     167315    1.0%         2891    0.8%
41:     206812    1.3%         3271    1.0%
40:     276479    1.7%         3718    1.2%
39:     273300    2.1%         4164    1.4%
38:     363039    2.7%         4507    1.7%
37:     439018    3.3%         5130    2.0%
36:     520598    4.1%         5792    2.3%
35:     629455    5.0%         6352    2.7%
34:     760599    6.1%         6980    3.1%
33:     893687    7.4%         8118    3.5%
32:    1109495    9.0%         9013    4.0%
31:    1309997   10.9%        10322    4.6%
30:    1599547   13.2%        12054    5.3%
29:    1881921   16.0%        14483    6.1%
28:    2230686   19.2%        17300    7.1%
27:    2659619   23.1%        21917    8.3%
26:    3071431   27.6%        27422    9.8%
25:    3660064   32.9%        34941   11.8%
24:    3751121   38.4%        45721   14.3%
23:    4299877   44.7%        58711   17.6%
22:    4550533   51.3%        75977   21.9%
21:    4729179   58.2%        96397   27.3%
20:    4818604   65.2%       118736   34.0%
19:    4445302   71.7%       142094   41.9%
18:    4232805   77.8%       160940   51.0%
17:    3771886   83.3%       172833   60.7%
16:    3209555   88.0%       173724   70.4%
15:    2585374   91.8%       161052   79.4%
14:    1974279   94.7%       135985   87.1%
13:    1416910   96.7%       100996   92.7%
12:     958661   98.1%        66090   96.4%
11:     599259   99.0%        37087   98.5%
10:     350258   99.5%        17349   99.5%
9:     185194   99.8%         6601   99.9%
8:      91231   99.9%         1966  100.0%
7:      39498  100.0%          518  100.0%
6:      15779  100.0%          114  100.0%
5:       5154  100.0%           23  100.0%
4:       1630  100.0%            3  100.0%

It is a matter of experience, but my general finding is that of the QV’s not capped at 50, about 80% of the data is definitely usable and 5-7% is definitely bad, leaving the rest in a “grey” zone.  From the histogram above anything under 22 is definitely usable, and anything over 28 is definitely bad.  Future scrubbing commands that trim and patch reads take these two user-selected thresholds as input (a -g and -b parameters) to control their function.  In this way, you can scrub harder or softer by adjusting these two thresholds.

To end, the routine DBdump now takes a -i option that asks it to output the quality vector for reads, provided, of course, the “qual” track exists.

A developing command guide for the scrubber module is available here.

Recording Alignments with Trace Points

The daligner often produces millions or billions of alignments for large genomes and records in .las files each of these alignments.  Thus far I’ve alluded to trace points as the way alignments are recorded in a couple of posts without real stating what they are.  An alignment between two reads a and b, must at a minimum record the interval of a, say [ab,ae], interval of b, say [bb,be], and the orientation o (= n or c) of b relative to a.  In brief:

a[ab,ae] x bo[bb,be]

However, at later stages one may want the actual alignment between these two substrings.  One choice, is to simply compute the alignment whenever it is needed.  Letting n = ae-ab ~ be-bb, and assuming an error rate of say ε = 15%, this takes O(εn2) time, which can be rather expensive when n is 10Kbp or more.  Another choice is to encode the alignment (daligner has it at one point in its work flow) as say a sequence of edit positions as in the SAM format.  This means that alignment is immediately available when needed, but unfortunately the encoding takes O(εn) space for each alignment which is a nontrivial amount.  For example, a 10Kbp alignment would involve 2500-3000 edits requiring conservatively 5-6Kb to encode, and that’s per alignment !

Trace points are a concept I came up with to realize a parameter-controlled trade off between the time to compute an alignment and the space to encode it.  Let Δ be a positive number. For instance, the daligner default is 100.  For an alignment with A-interval [ab,ae], imagine a trace point every 100bp, on every 100th base of the A-read.  For example, if [ab,ae] = [57,432], then place points at 100, 200, 300, and 400.  Generalizing, there are:

 τ = ⌈ ae/Δ ⌉ – ⌊ ab/Δ ⌋ = O(n/Δ)

intervals between the end-points of the A-interval and the trace points, e.g. [57,100], [100,200], [200,300], [300,400], [400,432].  Note that only the parameter Δ and the A-interval are needed to know where the trace points are in the A-read.  What we record is the number of bases in the B-interval [bb,be] that align with each of the trace-point intervals in A.  For example, suppose the B-interval is [1002,1391] , and in the full alignment trace that daligner has just computed:

A[ 57,100] aligns to B[1002,1050] with 10 diffs
A[100,200] aligns to B[1050,1155] with 25 diffs
A[200,300] aligns to B[1155,1250] with 18 diffs
A[300,400] aligns to B[1250,1351] with 22 diffs
A[400,432] aligns to B[1351,1391] with  7 diffs

Then the daligner records the alignment is recorded as the sequence of pairs (10,48) (25,105) (18,95) (22,101) (7,40) in the .las file along with the basic alignment information above.  In general, an alignment is encoded as a sequence (d1,b1) (d2,b2) (bd,b3) … (dτ,bτ) such that [bb+Σ(i-1),bb+Σ(i)] aligns with the Δ-spaced intervals of A, where Σ(i) = b1 + b2 + … + bi and by construction Σ(τ) = be-bb.  Note that if Δ is 100 and ε = 15% then one can be certain the bi‘s and di‘s fit in a single byte.  So the encoding is very sparse at exactly 2n/Δ bytes per alignment for the daligner running with the default trace point spacing.

So now suppose you want the alignment and you have the trace-point distances bi.  Very simply, all you need to do is compute alignments between each pair of A- and B- trace point intervals, and concatenate them together!  Each interval pair alignment takes O(εΔ2) time and there are O(n/Δ) intervals, for a total of O(εΔn) time.  For any fixed value of Δ, alignment delivery is thus linear in n and not quadratic!  One should note that the number of differences in each trace point interval are not actually needed to build an alignment.  The value of having these differences tucked away in the .las file will become apparent in a future post on “Intrinsic Quality Values”, but we introduce the exact encoding here for completeness.

With Δ=100 as the default, daligner uses only 200 bytes for every 10Kbp of aligned bases (compared to 6,000 bytes for BAM), but can still deliver alignments very rapidly with time that grows linearly in the number of aligned bases.  While the higher error rate of Pacbio data inspired this design, one should note that this scheme can and I think should be used for low error rate scenarios by simply using a much bigger Δ.  SAM was designed for short, almost perfect (ε = .5%) read alignments.  It is not general and space inefficient, whereas the trace point concept scales to whatever read size and error rate one could imagine for a technology simply by adjusting Δ.  SAM is also a really bad example of a bio-format that violates the “easy-to-read-by-a-program” philosophy I explained in the post “Seeing Dazzler Data & Results“.  The utility LAdump described in that post can be used to get the trace point sequence for any alignment from a daligner-produced .las file.

Seeing Dazzler Data & Results

Because the Dazzler is under development and not yet an end-to-end assembler, every Dazzler user at some point needs to get the information that tools like daligner have computed, so that they can carry on with the rest of their assembly process.  Currently, a few intrepid souls have either gotten into the code far enough to directly decode various files or have built ASCII parsers that pull the information from the outputs of commands like DBshow and LAshow that give users a printed representation of the information in a database or alignment file, respectively.  To rectify this, I have recently added some tools that make it very easy for a user to get any information they want from the Dazzler suite in an easy-to-understand and easy-to-parse format.

In a recent talk delivered at the PacBio developers conference this August, I railed about how awful formats like .fasta and .bam are.  Basically, I think that the programs that produce a dataset (I call them writers) should produce output that is as easy as possible for a consumer of the data to use (I call them readers).  For example, why should the reader not know in advance the size of the largest sequence in a data set?  The writer knows this and should give the information to the reader at the start of the encoding so that the reader can simply allocate a buffer of this maximum size, knowing that they need not check for overflow or have to reallocate and expand the buffer during input.  As another example, why put new-lines in the middle of a sequence?  I mean really, how often do you actually read a .fasta file?  And even if you did, every text manager I know of wraps overly long lines.  So at this point you get the idea, I’m sure, and I’ll stop the rant here🙂

Thus far the Dazzler suite produces a database organized around read records (or contigs of a reference sequence) and one or more alignment files giving local alignments between reads.  The new utility DBdump gets information out of a data base including any mask tracks associated with reads, and LAdump gets information out of an alignment file.  The formal specifications can be found by following the link associated with each name, here, we just give the intuition and idea behind the commands.  For example, the command “DBdump -hrs -mdust DB 10-12” will output the header (-h), sequence (-s), read number (-r), and dust track (-mdust) for reads 10 to 12 inclusive from DB.  The output might look like:

+ R 3
+ M 1
+ H 183
@ H 61
+ T0 4
@ T0 3
+ S 29186
@ S 11702
R 10
H 61 m130403_204322_42204_c100505872550000001823074808081366_s1_p0
L 338 0 8952
T0 1  4370 4380
S 8952 aaaagagagatactg...ccctgcggt
R 11
H 61 m130403_204322_42204_c100505872550000001823074808081366_s1_p0
L 347 0 8532
T0 1  6613 6647
S 8532 gaggggaaagatgat...ttcgacggc
R 12
H 61 m130403_204322_42204_c100505872550000001823074808081366_s1_p0
L 385 0 11702
T0 3  491 539 3363 3383 3817 3827
S 11702 agtgaaagagtgaa...atccgctgg

Each line begins with a single symbol or 1-code that designates what is to follow, e.g. R for read number, L for well and pulse range, H for header, and S for sequence.  Lines that have the 1-code + or @ are always at the beginning of the file as they give information about the total number of a given type of object in a file (+) or the maximum size of any given object over all reads (@).  For example, the first 8 lines tell you there are 3 reads, 1 mask track, 183 characters in all headers with 61 characters in the longest header, 4 mask.0 intervals altogether with at most 3 intervals for any given read, 29186 bases in all the reads with the longest being 11702bp long.  With this information you can basically allocate once all the buffers you need for reading and processing the file.  The records themselves should be easy to understand noting that (a) all items on a line are separated by a single space, (b) a string is a length/sequence pair (no newlines in the string!), and (c) track codes are T0, T1, T2, … where the number corresponds to their order on the command line.

Similarly one can access the information in a sorted alignment file with a call such as  “LAdump [-cdt] DB.db DB.las 4-6” which will output the overlap pairs, coordinate intervals (-c), number of differences (-d), and trace points (-t) for all the overlaps in DB.las whose A-read is 4, 5, or 6.  The set of all alignments with a given A-read is called a pile and many components of the Dazzler suite downstream of daligner analyze piles.

+ P 117
% P 44
+ T 6986
% T 2858
@ T 90
P 4 241 n
C 0 1315 2028 3327
D 252
T 14
25  84
17  97
16 103
1  14
P 4 274 n
C 0 1085 3335 4443
D 247
T 11
28  91
15 101
20  90
P 4 1740 c
C 0 1945 13444 15451
D 461
T 20
21  86
P 4 2248 n
C 244 2850 0 2383
D 590
T 27

The 1-codes used are: P for a read pair and orientation (c or n), C for the alignment coordinates, D for the number of differences in the alignment, and T for the start of a list of trace points.  In the example output below, the first 5 lines give information about the number of objects, where the new 1-code % designates information about the maximum size of something with respect to a pile.  In the example, there are 117 alignments altogether with 44 in the largest pile, and there 6986 trace points for all alignments, where the largest alignment has 90, and the pile with the most trace points has 2858.  The first overlap record is between read 1[0..1085] and 14n[3335..4443] with 247 differences in the alignment and 11 trace points given in pairs in the 11 lines following.  A forthcoming post will give a precise description of what trace points are exactly.

Dazzler DAMs and Other Upgrades

  Good news: the PacBio machines now occasionally produce reads that are longer than 65,536 bases long !  While I was excited about the length, my heart sank as I knew it meant that I had to take all my carefully compacted Dazzler data structures that used short integers and turn them into proper 4 byte integers requiring a review and retest of all the code released thus far.  To my relief it actually wasn’t that hard, and while I was at it I further modified the daligner local alignment finder so that it can accommodate k-mers of length up to 32.  The downside is that the daligner now takes twice as much memory as before, but it is only 4% slower on previous test cases.

  The upside, on the other hand, is huge because now the daligner can also be used as a general read mapper and string to string comparison tool, as a “read” can now be a DNA sequence that is as long as say the human genome or any other genomic sequence one might care to align reads to.  The only change required was to generalize a dazzler DB to something that holds all the contigs of a reference sequence and their .fasta header lines.  I decided to call these objects Dazzler Maps (DAM) and identify them with a .dam suffix versus the .db suffix of a regular database of Pacbio reads.  Internally almost everything is the same, save that a DAM, say foo, doesn’t have quality values (i.e. a .foo.qvs file) but does retain the header of every entry (in a new .foo.hdr file).  In fact every command that runs on a DB, now also runs on a DAM if it makes sense to do so.  In overview:

New Command:

fasta2DAM, DAM2fasta:

Like fasta2DB and DB2fasta, except entries with runs of N’s are broken into separate “contig” sequences (and the range of each contig recorded) by fasta2DAM and stitched back together with intervening N’s by DAM2fasta.  If you just have a plain old .fasta file with a bunch of sequences with no N’s in them, don’t worry, everything works just fine.


Like HPCdaligner, HPCmapper produces a UNIX script that using daligner, LAsort, and LAmerge to find all local alignments between the sequences in two databases that can be either a .dam or .db.  In addition, HPCdaligner also works on a .dam so for example I compared the E.Coli reference genome against itself to find all the repetitive elements which I thought was kind of cool.

Extended Commands:

DBshow, DBdust, Catrack, DBstats, DBsplit, DBrm:

All these commands run perfectly well on either a .db or a .damDBshow has also been upgraded to output the original .fasta header of displayed entries for .db‘s as well as .dam‘s.


The arguments to the daligner can now be a .dam, a .db, or a block thereof.  The daligner takes care of all the details in handling one versus the other, and now has a -A option that controls whether an alignment between reads a and b is reported twice as (a,b) and (b,a) (the previous behavior), or as just (a,b).  It also has what I think is a  cool -I option that tells daligner to allow a read to be compared against itself, excluding the identity match.

LAcheck, LAshow

LAcheck and LAshow both took a DB as an argument in order to either check or display .las entries, respectively.  For HPCmapper applications, the A- and B-sequences come from two different DB’s.  So the extended commands can take either a single .db or .dam, in which case they assume both the A- and B-sequences come from said DB, or they can now take a pair of .db or .dam arguments, that give the sources of the A- and B-sequences, respectively.

The new release of all the modules is available at Github here.

So with these upgrades and additions is it now possible to use Dazzler modules to map PacBio reads to a reference genome assembly.  In brief, one creates a DAM, say R.dam, of the reference genome with fasta2DAM and presumably one has the PacBio reads in a DB, D.db.  The .dam can be DBdust‘ed and split into blocks (if necessary with DBsplit).  A read mapping can then be effected by calling “HPCmapper R D” that produces a script involving daligner, LAsort, and LAmerge that will result in files R.D.1.las, R.D.2.las, … R.D.n.las where R.D.k.las contains the alignments between all of R.dam and the k‘th block of the DB D.db.  For example, if R is split into two blocks, and D into 3, then the call “HPCmapper -vd R D” produces the script:

# Daligner jobs (2)
daligner -vdA -k20 -h50 -e.85 R.1 D.1 D.2 D.3
daligner -vdA -k20 -h50 -e.85 R.2 D.1 D.2 D.3
# Initial sort jobs (6)
LAsort R.1.D.1.*.las && LAmerge L1.1.1 R.1.D.1.*.S.las && rm R.1.D.1.*.las
LAsort R.1.D.2.*.las && LAmerge L1.1.2 R.1.D.2.*.S.las && rm R.1.D.2.*.las
LAsort R.1.D.3.*.las && LAmerge L1.1.3 R.1.D.3.*.S.las && rm R.1.D.3.*.las
LAsort R.2.D.1.*.las && LAmerge L1.2.1 R.2.D.1.*.S.las && rm R.2.D.1.*.las

# Level 1 merge jobs (3)
LAmerge R.D.1 L1.*.1.las && rm L1.*.1.las
LAmerge R.D.2 L1.*.2.las && rm L1.*.2.las
LAmerge R.D.3 L1.*.3.las && rm L1.*.3.las

Note carefully that the parameters -k, -h, and -e default to more stringent values when running daligner as a mapper.  I have not carefully tested or evaluated the new daligner to see what values of -k and -h give the best time vs. sensitivity tradeoff for a given choice of error rate -e.  The values chosen for PacBio reads are if anything overly sensitive and could be further optimized for speed, but with the values given its already so fast I haven’t as yet bothered.  Indeed, I wonder if the daligner would now be a good mapper for Illumina reads.   Hmmmm, to be continued …

A precise, detailed, and up-to-date command reference including these new commands can be found here.


DALIGNER: Fast and sensitive detection of all pairwise local alignments

The first phase of the Dazzler assembler compares every read in the trimmed Dazzler database (DB) against every other read in the trimmed DB, seeking significant local alignments between them. In an old-fashioned OLC assembler, one would look, more restrictively, for overlaps between reads. But one can use local alignments to detect artifacts such as chimeric reads and unclipped adapter sequence by looking for consistent alignment terminations within a read, and one can also detect and annotate repetitive elements of the genome covered within a read by looking for “pile-ups” of alignments. Removing the artifacts and knowing the repetitive regions covered by a read is a huge advantage prior to assembling the reads. Indeed, the dazzler assembler employes several downstream phases specifically to remove artifacts, correct reads, and annotate repetitive elements prior to building a string graph which is the modern analog of the layout phase for an OLC architecture.

You can get the source code for the DALIGNER module on Github here. Grabbing the code and uttering “make” should produce 9 programs: daligner, LAsort, LAmerge, LAshow, LAcat, LAsplit, LAcheck, HPCdaligner, and HPCmapper.

Ideally one would like to call the alignment finder, daligner, with a DB, e.g. “daligner MyDB“, and after some computing it would output a file encoding all the found local alignments. Unfortunately for big projects the amount of memory and CPU time required make this impossible. For example, on the Pacbio 54X human data set, daligner took 15,600 CPU hours on our modest 480 core HPC cluster, and as a monolithic run would have required at least 12Tb of memory! I could start apologizing, but consider that the only other program that can compare reads at a 12-15% error rate, BLASR, took 404,000 CPU hours, and only delivered overlaps. Indeed, a primary reason for releasing daligner now, and not waiting to release a complete end-to-end assembler is precisely to provide the bioinformatics community with a feasible way to compute alignments for Pacbio data at this scale. While we’ve embedded daligner within our database framework, it is easy to grab daligner‘s output in an ASCII format and then use that in an HGAP pipeline (which is the only current end to end assembler publicly available).

So given the scale of the required computation we have to “bite the bullet” and take a job parallel, HPC approach to effect an all-against-all comparison of the trimmed DB. So as a running example, let’s suppose you’ve set up a DB that is partitioned and optionally has a “dust” track (see this blog post) with a command sequence like:

fasta2DB DB MyData1.fasta MyData2.fasta ...
DBdust DB
DBsplit -x1000 DB

Suppose for simplicity that DB splits into 3 blocks. Then calling HPCdaligner on the DB will produce a UNIX shell script that contains all the commands needed to effect the all against all comparison. For example, “HPCdaligner DB” produces the script:

# Daligner jobs (3)
daligner DB.1 DB.1
daligner DB.2 DB.1 DB.2
daligner DB.3 DB.1 DB.2 DB.3
# Initial sort jobs (9)
LAsort DB.1.DB.1.*.las && LAmerge L1.1.1 DB.1.DB.1.*.S.las && rm DB.1.DB.1.*.las
LAsort DB.1.DB.2.*.las && LAmerge L1.1.2 DB.1.DB.2.*.S.las && rm DB.1.DB.2.*.las
LAsort DB.1.DB.3.*.las && LAmerge L1.1.3 DB.1.DB.3.*.S.las && rm DB.1.DB.3.*.las
LAsort DB.2.DB.1.*.las && LAmerge L1.2.1 DB.2.DB.1.*.S.las && rm DB.2.DB.1.*.las

# Level 1 merge jobs (3)
LAmerge DB.1 L1.1.*.las && rm L1.1.*.las
LAmerge DB.2 L1.2.*.las && rm L1.2.*.las
LAmerge DB.3 L1.3.*.las && rm L1.3.*.las

Each non-comment line of the script should be submitted to your cluster as a job, and all the jobs following one of the 3 comment lines can be run in parallel, but these 3 batches of job groups need to be run in sequence. That is, the 3 “Daligner” jobs can be run in parallel as a group, and once they have all completed, one can then run the 9 “Initial sort” jobs in parallel as a group, and finally the “Level 1 merge” jobs as a group. And of course, for a small script like this one, you could just invoke the shell on the script and let the jobs run sequentially on your desktop, e.g. “HPCdaligner DB | csh“.

When all the jobs of our sample script have completed there will be 3 sorted alignment files DB.1.las, DB.2.las, DB.3.las that encode the alignments found for the reads in each of the 3 trimmed DB blocks, respectively. To describe the contents of these 3 files precisely, one must first know that for each alignment, a .las-file records:

a[ab,ae] x bcomp[bb,be]

where a and b are the indices (in the trimmed DB) of the reads that overlap, comp indicates whether the b-read is from the same or opposite strand, and [ab,ae] and [bb,be] are the intervals of a and bcomp, respectively, that align. It is further the case that an alignment between reads a and b results in two alignment records, one for a versus b and another for b versus a. In addition, a series of trace points is retained with each alignment record to facilitate the rapid delivery of an optimal alignment between the relevant intervals of the reads. We can now explain that the output file DB.n.las contains all the overlap records for which the first read a is in the trimmed block DB.n and these records further occur in sorted order of a, then b, then comp, and finally ab. What this means is that all the alignments involving a given a-read occur in a contiguous interval of the output files permitting easy and job parallel computation in the downstream phases for chimer detection, read correction, repeat analysis, etc..

The HPCdaligner UNIX shell script employes the three commands daligner, LAsort, and LAmerge to produce the sorted and partitioned .las files for each of the N blocks of a hypothetical database D as follows:

  • “Daligner” step: Every block is compared against every other block by calling daligner on every pair D.x and D.y such that y≤x. A call such as “daligner D.x D.y1 .. D.yk” performs k comparisons of block D.x versus each block D.yi and does so with a compiled number of threads T (default 4). Each of these pairwise block comparisons produces 2T unsorted .las files D.x.D.y.[C|N]t.las and if x > y, an additional 2T unsorted .las files D.y.D.x.[C|N]t.las. The file D.x.D.y.Ot.las contains every alignment produced by thread t where the a-read is in D.x and the b-read is in D.y and is in orientation O. In total (N+1)N/2 blocks are compared and 2N2T .las files result.
  • “Initial sort” step: The 2T .las files for each block pair x,y, are sorted and merged into a single sorted .las file. The 2T files are first sorted with LAsort, where for each unsorted file U.las the command produces the sorted overlap file U.S.las. These sorted .S.las files are then merged into a single sorted file, L1.x.y.las, with LAmerge and afterwords removed. At the end of this step there are exactly N2 sorted .las files, one for each block pair.
  • “Level k merge” steps: In a sequence of O(log N) levels the N files L1.x.*.las for a given block x are merged by LAmerge into a single .las file, D.x.las. At level 1, the N sorted files for a block are merged in groups of up to 25 resulting in ⌊N/25⌋ files, that in level 2 are merged in groups of up to 25, resulting in ⌊N/625⌋ files, and so on until only one file D.x.las remains. Even big projects involve less than 625 blocks, so typically only one or at most two merge levels are required.

For extraordinarily large projects the computation can be performed in stages as new data is added to the database, thus amortizing the cost of finding alignments over the interval of data production. For example, suppose you have a really big project going and that thus far the DB has 78 blocks in its current partition. Executing the script produced by “HPCdaligner DB 1-77" will compare blocks 1 to 77 versus each other producing files DB.1.las through DB.77.las. Note carefully that the last block, 78, was not included, because it is a partial block. Later on suppose you’ve added more data and now have 144 blocks. Then executing the script produced by “HPCdaligner DB 78-143” will compare blocks 78 to 143 against each other and against the earlier blocks 1 through 77, updating DB.1.las through DB.77.las and creating DB.78.las through DB.144.las. And so on. The only restrictions are that (a) one must add the blocks in sequential order once only, and (b) one should never add the last, partial block until the very last increment. By submitting each new complete block as it appears, I figure one could keep up with data production for say a 100X shotgun of D. melanogaster on a decent laptop.

The command LAshow produces an ASCII display of all or a selected subset of the alignments encoded in a given .las file, sorted or unsorted. One can view just the read indices and their aligned intervals, one per line, or a line rendering of the relationship between the two reads, or a complete BLAST-style alignment of each local alignment where one has several options for customizing the display. In addition to permitting one to browse local alignments, the ASCII output can also be fed into a python or pearl script that converts the information to a from that can be input to an external program of your choosing, such as the read correction step of the HGAP assembler.

The LAcat and LAsplit commands allow one to effectively change the partition of the .las files for a project should it ever be necessary. Suppose the .las files D.1.las, D.2.las, …, D.N.las have been computed for a database D.db that has been partitioned into N blocks. “LAcat D.# >E.las” will find all the .las files of the form D.#.las and stream the conceptual concatenation of all the .las files in numeric order to the standard output, in this case to the file E.las. In the other direction, “LAsplit F.# N <E.las” will split E.las as evenly as possible into N block files, F.1.las, F.2.las, …, F.N.las subject to the restriction that the alignments involving a given a-read are all in the same file. Note that F.x.las does not necessarily equal the original D.x.las, as the a-reads in F.x.las may not be the same as the reads in a given block, D.x.db, because the splitting criteria for LAsplit and DBsplit are not the same. To get exactly the same files back, one should instead utter “LAsplit F.#.las D.db <E.las” or more tersely “LAsplit F.# D <E.las” that splits the piped input according to the partitioning of database D !  Finally, observe that if you want to repartition the DB D and also all the D.#.las files, first call DBsplit on D, and afterwords call “LAcat D.# | LAsplit D.# D” to redistribute the alignment records into .las files according to the new partitioning.

Lastly, the command LAcheck reads through the .las files given to it and checks them for structural integrity, i.e. do they reasonably encode a properly formatted .las file? We find this command useful in ensuring that every stage of a large HPCdaligner script has been properly executed. In processes involving thousands of jobs, it is not unusual for one or two to go “haywire”. So while we didn’t build it into the HPCdaligner scripts, we strongly recommend that you run LAcheck on .las files throughout the process to make sure all is well. Doing so is standard operating procedure for our assembly group.

A precise, detailed, and up-to-date command reference can be found here.


The Dazzler DB: Organizing an Assembly Pipeline

Assembling DNA sequence data is not a simple problem. Conceptually it generally can be thought of as proceeding in a number of sequential steps, performed by what we call phases arranged in a pipeline, that perform certain aspects of the overall process. For example in the “OLC” assembly paradigm, the first phase (O) is to find all the overlaps between reads, the second phase (L) is to then use the overlaps to construct a layout of the reads, and the final phase (C) is to compute a consensus sequence over the arrangement of reads. One can easily imagine additional phases, such as a “scrubber” that detects chimeric reads, a “cleaner” that corrects read sequence, and so on. Indeed, the header banner for this blog shows a 7 phase pipeline that roughly realizes our current dazzler prototype. To facilitate the multiple and evolving phases of the dazzler assembler, we have chosen to organize all the read data into what is effectively a “database” of the reads and their meta-information. The design goals for this data base are as follows:

  1. The database stores the source Pacbio read information in such a way that it can recreate the original input data, thus permitting a user to remove the (effectively redundant) source files. This avoids duplicating the same data, once in the source file and once in the database.
  1. The data base can be built up incrementally, that is new sequence data can be added to the data base over time.
  1. The data base flexibly allows one to store any meta-data desired for reads. This is accomplished with the concept of tracks that implementers can add as they need them.
  1. The data is held in a compressed form equivalent to the .dexta and .dexqv files of the data extraction module. Both the .fasta and .quiva information for each read is held in the data base and can be recreated from it. The .quiva information can be added separately and later on if desired.
  1. To facilitate job parallel, cluster operation of the phases of our assembler, the data base has a concept of a current partitioning in which all the reads that are over a given length and optionally unique to a well, are divided up into blocks containing roughly a given number of bases, except possibly the last block which may have a short count. Often programs can be run on blocks or pairs of blocks and each such job is reasonably well balanced as the blocks are all the same size. One must be careful about changing the partition during an assembly as doing so can void the structural validity of any interim block-based results.

The Dazzler DB module source code is available on Github here. Grabbing the code and uttering “make” should produce 13 programs: fast2DB, quiva2DB, DB2fasta, DB2quiva, fasta2DAM, DAM2fasta, DBsplit, DBdust, Catrack, DBshow, DBstats, DBrm, and simulator.

One can add the information from a collection of .fasta files to a given DB with fasta2DB, and one can subsequently add the quality streams in the associated .quiva files with quiva2DB. After adding these files to a data base one can then remove them as property 1 above guarantees that these files can be recreated from the DB, and the routines DB2fasta and DB2quiva do exactly that. Indeed, here in Dresden we typically extract .fasta and .quiva files with dextract from the Pacbio .bax.h5 source files and then immediately put the .fasta and .quiva files into the relevant DB, remove the .fasta and .quiva files, and send the .bax.h5 files to our tape backup library. We can do this because we know that we can recreate the .fasta and .quiva files exactly as they were when imported to the database.

A Dazzler DB consists of one named, visible file, e.g. FOO.db, and several invisible secondary files encoding various elements of the DB. The secondary files are “invisible” to the UNIX OS in the sense that they begin with a “.” and hence are not listed by “ls” unless one specifies the -a flag. We chose to do this so that when a user lists the contents of a directory they just see a single name, e.g. FOO.db, that is the one used to refer to the DB in commands. The files associated with a database named, say FOO, are as follows:

(a) FOO.db
a text file containing (i) the list of input files added to the database so far, and (ii) how to partition the database into blocks (if the partition parameters have been set).

(b) .FOO.idx
a binary “index” of all the meta-data about each read allowing, for example, one to randomly access a read’s sequence (in the store .FOO.bps). It is 28N + 88 bytes in size where N is the number of reads in the database.

(c) .FOO.bps
a binary compressed “store” of all the DNA sequences. It is M/4 bytes in size where M is the total number of base pairs in the database.

(d) .FOO.qvs
a binary compressed “store” of the 5 Pacbio quality value streams for the reads. Its size is roughly 5/3M bytes depending on the compression achieved. This file only exists if .quiva files have been added to the database.

(e) .FOO.<track>.anno, .FOO.<track>.data
a track called <track> containing customized meta-data for each read. For example, the DBdust command annotates low complexity intervals of reads and records the intervals for each read in the two files .FOO.dust.anno and that are together called the “dust” track. Any kind of information about a read can be recorded, such as micro-sat intervals, repeat intervals, corrected sequence, etc. Specific tracks will be described as phases that produce them are created and released.

If one does not like the convention of the secondary files being invisible, then un-defining the constant HIDE_FILES in DB.h before compiling the library, creates commands that do not place a prefixing “.” before secondary file names, e.g. FOO.idx instead of .FOO.idx. One then sees all the files realizing a DB when listing the contents of a directory with ls.

While a Dazzler DB holds a collection of Pacbio reads, a Dazzler map DB or DAM holds a collection of contigs from a reference genome assembly. This special type of DB has been introduced in order to facilitate the mapping of reads to an assembly and has been given the suffix .dam to distinguish it from an ordinary DB. It is structurally identical to a .db except:

(a) there is no concept of quality values, and hence no .FOO.qvs file.

(b) every .fasta scaffold (a sequence with runs of N’s between contigs estimating the length of the gap) is broken into a separate contig sequence in the DB and the header for each scaffold is retained in a new .FOO.hdr file.

(c) the original and first and last pulse fields in the meta-data records held in .FOO.idx, hold instead the contig number and the interval of the contig within its original scaffold sequence.

A map DB can equally well be the argument of any of the commands below that operate on normal DBs. In general, a .dam can be an argument anywhere a .db can, with the exception of routines or optioned calls to routines that involve quality values, or the special routines fasta2DAM and DAM2fasta that create a DAM and reverse said, just like the pair fasta2DB and DB2fasta. So in general when we refer to a database we are referring to either a DB or a DAM.

The command DBsplit sets or resets the current partition for a database which is determined by 3 parameters: (i) the total number of basepairs to place in each block, (ii) the minimum read length of reads to include within a block, and (iii) whether or not to only include the longest read from a given well or all reads from a well (NB: several reads of the same insert in a given well can be produced by the Pacbio instrument). Note that the length and uniqueness parameters effectively select a subset of the reads that contribute to the size of a block. We call this subset the trimmed data base. Some commands operate on the entire database, others on the trimmed database, and yet others have an option flag that permits them to operate on either at the users discretion. Therefore, one should note carefully to which version of the database a command refers to. This is especially important for any command that identifies reads by their index (ordinal position) in the database.

Once the database has been split into blocks, the commands DBshow, DBstats, and DBdust below and commands yet to come, such as the local alignment finder dalign, can take a block or blocks as arguments. On the command line this is indicated by supplying the name of the DB followed by a period and then a block number, e.g. FOO.3.db or simply FOO.3, refers to the 3’rd block of DB FOO (assuming of course it has a current partition and said partition has a 3rd block). One should note carefully that a block is a contiguous range of reads such that once it is trimmed has a given size in base pairs (as set by DBsplit). Thus like an entire database, a block can be either untrimmed or trimmed and one needs to again be careful when giving a read index to a command such as DBshow.

The command DBdust runs the symmetric DUST low complexity filter on every read in a given untrimmed DB or DB block and it is the first example of a phase that produces a track. It is incremental in that you can call it repeatedly on a given DB and it will extend the track information to include any new reads added since the last time it was run on the DB. Reads are analyzed for low-complexity intervals and these intervals constitute the information stored in the .dust-track. These intervals are subsequently “soft”-masked by the local alignment command dalign, i.e. the low-complexity intervals are ignored for the purposes of finding read pairs that might have a significant local alignment between them, but any local alignment found will include the low-complexity intervals.

When DBdust is run on a block, say FOO.3, it is run on the untrimmed version of the block and it produces a block track in the files .FOO.3.dust.anno and, whereas running DBdust on the entire DB FOO produces .FOO.dust.anno and Thus one can run an independent job on each block of a DB, and then after the fact stitch all the block tracks together with a call to Catrack, e.g. “Catrack FOO dust“. Catrack is a general command that merges any sequence of block tracks together into a track for the specified DB. For example, a 50X human dataset would partition into roughly 375, 400Mb blocks, for which DBdust takes about 20 seconds on a typical processor. One can either call DBdust on the entire DB and wait 375*20 ~ 2.07 hours, or run 375 jobs on each block on your local compute cluster, waiting 1 or 2 minutes, depending on how loaded your cluster is, and then call Catrack on the block tracks, which takes another half a minute at most.

Tracks that encode intervals of the underlying reads in the data base, of which the “dust” track is an example, are specifically designated interval tracks, and commands like DBshow, DBstats, and daligner can accept and utlize one or more such tracks, typically specified through a -m option on the command line.

DBshow and DBstats are routines that allow one to examine the current contents of a DB or DB block. DBstats gives one a summary of the contents of an untrimmed or trimmed DB of DB block including a histogram of read lengths and histograms of desired interval tracks if desired. DBshow allows your to display the sequence and/or quality streams of any specific set of reads or read ranges in the DB or DB block where the output can be in Pacbio fasta or quiva format depending on which option flags are set. There is a flag that controls whether the command applies to the entire DB or the trimmed DB and one must be careful, as the, say 5th read of the DB may not be the 5th read of the trimmed DB. A nice trick here is that since the output is in the Pacbio formats, one can then create a “mini-DB” of the set of reads output by DBshow, by calling fasta2DB and/or quiva2DB on its output. This conveniently allows a developer to test/debug a phase on a small, troublesome subset of reads in the DB.

DBrm removes all the files, including all tracks, realizing a given DB. It is safer to use this command than to attempt to remove a DB by calling rm on each hidden file. Lastly, this release includes a simple simulator, simulator, that creates a synthetic Pacbio data set useful for testing purposes.

A precise, detailed, and up-to-date command reference can be found here.