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Direct sequencing of Molecular Haplotypes from Diploid Cells


The rapid decline in the cost and complexity of genome sequencing has lead projects to sequence 1,000s of genomes from humans and many other species. However the output from these projects is almost invariably a consensus sequence of the two genomes present in any diploid organism. These consensus genomes lose important information about the relationship between possibly interacting polymorphisms. We have developed a simplified protocol for obtaining molecular haplotypes by sequencing directly from individual chromosomes that makes it possible to capture these relationships.

The diploid sequences of three groups of cattle samples were obtained by the Centre for Genomic Research in Liverpool from an Angus Steer and an Angus Bull both from Prof Jerry Taylor of the University of Missouri and from 18 East African Zebu Cattle cattle from Busia, Western Kenya in collaboration with Prof Steve Kemp at The International Livestock Research Institute . We used a simple sample preparation procedure requiring only a microscope and a haemocytometer. Read contigs were obtained by mapping read to the bovine UMD3.1 reference genome assembly and scaffolds were assembled by joining adjacent contigs. Scaffolds had an N50 length of ~50kb and ~90% genome coverage. Scaffold haplotypes were ~99% consistent between different libraries and could phase 80-97% of pairs of missense SNP within genes indicating their utility. Larger haplotypes were assembled by joining scaffolds using SNP data with the ReFHap Single Individual Haplotyper program to generate an N50 size of ~100-200kb but only ~50% genome coverage. This method can be used in any laboratory with no special equipment at only slightly higher costs than conventional diploid genome sequencing.

We also developed a large suite of Analysis Software to extract contigs, scaffodls and SNP haplotypes and report descriptive statistics.

Angus Bull 1736 image. Image supplied by Jerry Taylow

Sequences of Individual Angus Bull Sperm

Random Angus Steer from Missouri State University Farn. Not animal that was sequenced. Image from Prof Jerry Taylor MSU

Haploid Sequence of Angus Steer Lymphocytes

East African Zebu Steer at Homestead in Busia, Kenya

Haploid Sequences of East African Zebu Cattle Lymphocytes

Data analysis pipeline

Diagram of Workflow for data analysisFig 1 Data processing workflow. Fastq files are mapped to a reference with BWA to generate bam files of aligned reads. GATK is used to generate VCF files of SNP and the SNP data is used to modify the reference fasta file to contain IUPAC redundancy codes for the SNP loci. The mapping and SNP calling is then repeated. This was particulalry important for ABI SOLiD data but also improved Illumina data. ContigMetrics and TargetCut are used to generate scaffolds from the bam files. GATK is used to generate VCF files. BuldReFHaPinput takes vcf files and lists of scaffolds and outputs scaffold self consistency metrics and the input files for ReFHaP, which is used to generate files of phased SNP. ValidateSIHhaplotypes and ValidateHaplotypes take haplotypes derived from SNP genotype data with Beagle and compares them with haplotypes obtained by ReFHaP and derived from scaffolds respectively.

Given the necessarily large number of libraries that must be processed for direct haplotyping many of the tasks that can be run manually for a single library project need to be automated. We have used Perl scripts to generate multiple commands in the following processes. All programmes were exclusively tested under Debian Linux. All were written for the specific set of samples that were being run and although highly parameterized they may need some editing for different samples in a different directory structure. In particular many scripts iterate over the 29 autosomes in a cow. This loop will need to be modified for other organisms. All software is also available as a tarball from github

Briefly the pipeline consisted of:

  1. make list of file ids and fastq files eg searches for the required fastq files and extracts sample name and file id from filename
  2. run to map fastq with BWA and output bam files
  3. run to split bam files by chromosome, merge the multiple bam files for each sample, dedup and realign bam files
  4. run to use GATK to create a single vcf file for all bamfiles for a chromosome. calls to remove uninformative positions from the output vcf files and dramatically reduce file size
  5. run to call the Picard Tools module ContigMetrics.jar to extract scaffolds from bamfiles to gff3 files
  6. run to run samtools targetcut for all bamfiles and parse output to gff3 files
  7. run to run BuildRefHapInput.V1.1.jar to generate input files for the SingleIndividualHaplotyper.jar and then run it to build SNP based haplotypes

The parameters for all Java programmes can be obtained by running them with no parameters.

Get list of Fastq files

The necessary fastq files were scattered across multiple directories. takes a list of directories and searches them for fastq.gz files that match a project identifier. It also gets the md5 checksum for each file, which will be required later when files are submitted to a short read archive. It prints a list of files to a file that will be used by the script to pass fastq files to BWA for mapping. must be edited to insert the path names in the list of paths and the project identifier in the ‘find’ statement.


A Perl script takes a list of fastq files from a file and mapping parameters from a config file and maps them against a reference. The script generates a shellscript for each fastq file and uses ssh to send it to the next available machine for mapping, maintaining a load of one job per machine. BWA can be allocated a number of threads to use the available cores on each machine. We used 8 threads per machine and only allocated one job per machine at a time, but this can be changed by editing the $mappingJobsPerMachine parameter in the script.

The user name, directory containing the reference genome, BWA index files, reference genome fasta file, the file containing a list of fastq files, the BWA parameter value pairs, the BWA switches, the platform, a list of machines available by ssh to allocate the jobs to and the path to Picard tools must be set in a config file with default name BWAconfig.txt but a different name can be passed as a parameter of the Perl command line command. Samtools is required and is assumed to be in the users path.

A log file is generated with all the BWA output. A PerlErrorLog.txt file records any errors thrown by the Perl script. These two files should be consulted in the event of no or unexpected output.

The script runs as much as possible in scratch to minimise network traffic. It assumes that a directory named /scratch exists and creates a subdirectory “/scratch/username/” if it does not already exist. The sequence of commands in the shell script is:

  1. mkdir –p /scratch/username/
  2. bwa aln
  3. bwa samse or bwa sampe depending whether it finds an R2 file for each R1 file. The script assumes that R1 will be present in a well formed fastq file name.
  4. Append a count of mapped lines to a file MappedLines.txt
  5. Convert the sam output from bwa to bam with samtools
  6. Sort the bamfile using picard/SortSam.jar
  7. Index the bamfile with samtools
  8. Move output files from scratch back to the run directory

BWA –q quality parameter

In the BWA manual the effect of the –q (quality) parameter is described as:

“Parameter for read trimming. BWA trims a read down to argmax_x{\sum_{i=x+1}^l(INT-q_i)} if q_l < INT where l is the original read length.”

SEQanswers pointed to a Perl script from UC Davis that implements the BWA algorithm as follows:

BWA quality trimming starts at 5' end and calculates its own quality statistic derived from the machine quality score using the equation BWAscore = q - (MachineScore - 33) so with q = 10 and machine score = 40 then the BWA score =3. Negative values of BWAscore are associated with high quality bases and positive scores with low quality bases. A BWAscore of zero will be where q + 33 = machine score. It then sums the BWAscores from the 5' end until the sum goes negative. It then trims the read to the first base where it goes negative and uses that for mapping. The intention is that it does not just trim back to the first high quality base but to a region of high quality bases.

Run GATK to merge and dedup files by chromosome

Since the number of files and amount of data can be large we split each bam file output by BWA into multiple bamfiles, one for each chromosome, and then run the GATK dedupping and realignment on files for each chromosome. This generates a much larger number of output bam files. The next script takes these output bam for simultaneous SNP calling over all bamfiles for a given chromosome at once.

The script takes a list of bam files and a config file (default name “configMergeAndDedup.txt") but another filename can be passed as the only parameter to the script. The list of bam files for input can be generated using

The list of bam files is a tab separated list with a unique identifier for each file in column 0 and the bam file name in column 1. The unique identifier is assumed to start with the sample id separated from the rest of the name (the lane number in our case) with an underscore eg: “47_L007”. Files with the same sample name and different suffixes will be merged prior to dedupping and realigning.

The Perl script generates a shellscript that does the following for each chromosome:

  1. Makes a scratch directory if not present
  2. Takes all bam and bai files for a sample and copies them to scratch
  3. Extracts the reads associated with the current chromosomes with samtools
  4. Merges files for same sample using Picard merge
  5. Sorts resulting bam file using Picard SortSamFiles
  6. Removes duplicates using Picard MarkDuplicates
  7. Realigns around Indels with GATK
  8. Sorts resulting bam file using Picard SortSamFiles
  9. Indexes bamfiles with Samtools
  10. Realigns around Indels with GATK
  11. Sorts resulting bam file using Picard SortSamFiles
  12. Indexes bamfiles with Samtools
  13. Copies output files back to the project directory
  14. Deletes intermediate files from scratch

The Perl script runs each shellfile on the next available machine. As the programmes used are all single threaded, multiple jobs can be sent to each available machine. The default is one, to stay friends with our sysadmin, but this can be changed in the Perl script by changing the parameter $gatkJobsPerMachine.

A logfile with the output from the Picard and GATK programs is generated for each sample x chromosome combination as well as a separate log for the dedupping by Picard tools and a single error log (PerlErrorLog.txt) for the Perl script. Each of these should be consulted in the event of no or unexpected output.

Run GATK to create VCF files

SNP are called on all bam files for all samples for a given chromosome jointly with The EMIT_ALL_CONFIDENT_SITES option is used so that genotypes for samples that are homozygous for reference alleles are written to the vcf file. This important since, given the low coverage, it cannot be assumed that a sample has the reference allele if there is no data reported. Using this option generates very large vcf files with most positions homozygous or missing in all samples. A Perl script is called by after VCF file construction, to remove these uninformative positions and dramatically reduce file size. This script uses bgzip and tabix to zip and index VCF files, these programmes are assumed to be in the path. is assumed to be in the working directory.

A shellscript is generated to run the programme using all available machines but only one job at a time per machine.

The parameters to must be set by editing the perl script. The variables that must be set are all at the top of the script.

For each chromosome the script

  1. Makes a scratch directory
  2. Builds a list of bam files
  3. Copies each bam and bai file to scratch
  4. Calls GATK unified genotyper
  5. Bgzips and tabix the output vcf file
  6. Runs
  7. Copies vcf file and index back to working directory
  8. Cleans up scratch

Build scaffolds of reads.

We have used two strategies for scaffold construction 1) A custom Picard Module “ContigMetrics.jar”; 2) targetcut in samtools.

A Picard tools module ContigMetrics.jar was written to iterate over bam files and extract scaffolds of mapped reads based on two alternative criteria: 1) A user specified maximum distance between contigs in a scaffold (default 1,000bp); 2) a user specified number of standard deviations of gap length between contigs. The programme outputs files containing distributions of gap lengths, statistics of gaps, contigs and scaffolds and gff3 files containing the coordinates of scaffolds. The jar file was compiled under picard-tools-1.79, it should be copied into the trunk/dist/ directory of Picard tools. A description of each user controlled parameter can be obtained by running the module with no parameters. Source

ContigMetrics is run on all merged bam files for each chromosome generated by the script by using This script must be edited to provide the path to the directory with the bam files to be processed and also the path to a bed file of repeat co-ordinates which will be used to filter out scaffolds wholly within repeats. The script then builds a system command to extract contigs and scaffolds from each bam file. A large number of parameters can or must be set and these are set by the Perl script.

The principal output for each sample and chromosome are a gff3 file of scaffolds sample_chr.gff3, a list of contigs sample_chr.contigs, a histogram of counts of each gap length between contigs sample_chr.contig_gaps, a histogram of contig lengths sample_chr.contig_lengths, percentiles of the gap length distribution sample_chr.percentiles.txt, a histogram of read coverage sample_chr.prop.coverage. A log file “ScaffoldLog.txt” has summary statistics for all bam files and these can be tabulated by chromosome and by sample by running and passing it the name of the ScaffoldLog.txt file as a parameter. Summary statistics include mean and N50 Scaffold and contig lengths, depth of reads over contigs, proportion of reference sequence covered, numbers of reads processed etc. See Supplementary data SummaryScaffoldStatistics.txt for the data from this project.

Building scaffolds with targetcut in Samtools

The Samtools module targetcut written by Kitzman et al 2010 has similar functionality to ContigMetrics although based on rather more relaxed criteria which cannot be modified by the user. It runs much faster than ContigMetrics but does not generate any of the metadata that is output by ContigMetrics

Samtools targetcut was run for all bam files using The script must be edited to insert paths to the directory containing bam files. The script parses the output from the targetcut command to produce a gff3 file of scaffold co-ordinates for each input bam file to use as input to BuildRefHapInput.V1.1.jar to generate input file for the Single Individual Haplotyper program (ReFHaP).

Running Single Individual Haplotyper program (ReFHaP).

Input files for the ReFHaP programme [1] are generated by BuildRefHapInput.V1.1.jar from the gff3 scaffold files and the vcf SNP files. BuildRefHapInput.V1.1.jar is called for all gff3 files by As well as generating the .frag and .allvars file for ReFHaP it also compares all overlapping scaffolds to obtain consistency metrics; removes uninformative loci from the SNP data; removes scaffolds with an excess of heterozygotes using user settable parameters (default 3 heterozygotes or > 20% heterozygotes); removes loci with more than two, two SNP haplotypes. Run BuildRefHapInput.V1.1.jar without any parameters to get a list of required parameters: “java –jar BuildRefHapInput.V1.1.jar". Source code BuildRefHapInput.tar.gz assumes that gff3 files have been moved to folders by chromosome with folder names in the format ChrN_Scaffolds. will search a directory and create the ChrN_Scaffolds folders and move gff3 files into them. does the following for each chromosome in turn:

  1. creates of list of all gff3 files
  2. calls BuildRefHapInput.V1.1.jar which generates a gff3 file for each pair of input gff3 files with a line for each overlap and the consistency of the SNP. It also generates a .frags file and a .allvars file for ReFHaP input.
  3. The overall consistency of all overlaps with and without a switch error correction is obtained by which summarizes all the comparison gff3 files and is called by
  4. calls to calculate the percentage of the genome that is covered by the complete set of scaffolds.
  5. Tars and zips all of the very large number of gff3 files that report consistency between scaffolds.
  6. Calls SingleIndividualHaplotyper.jar to obtain SNP haplotypes
  7. Once all chromosomes have been processed calls which removes uninformative sites from the .phase file which substantially reduces it’s size. It also generates descriptive statistics of the haplotypes for each chromosome: mean, N50 and maximum lengths.

BuildRefHapInput.V1.1.jar writes descriptive statistics about the scaffolds to a log file including numbers of scaffolds removed because of heterozygotes, and number of loci removed because they had more than two haplotypes. Output from is appended to the same log file.

Additional Descriptive statistics and annotation

  1. parses the consistency stats for each chromosome from the logfile generated for each chromosome.
  2. obtains extensive summary statistics from the logfile
  3. runs ValidateHaplotypes.jar to compare scaffolds haplotypes against haplotypes generated by Beagle using Illumina high density SNP chip data. Source code ValidateHaplotypes.tar.gz
  4. runs ValidateSIHhaplotypes.jar to compare SNP haplotypes generated from sequence data with ReFHaP against haplotypes generated by Beagle using Illumina high density SNP chip data. Source code ValidateSIHhaplotypes.tar.gz
  5. uses VCF tools and the Ensembl Vareiant Effect Predictor API. Takes a vcf file and a chromosome number as input and gets a list of genes from Ensembl, extracts the SNP within those genes from the vcf file and submits them to Ensembl for annotation. Writes a new vcf file with the consequences embedded in the annotation (INFO field). obtains the counts of each class of annotation in a vcf file.
  6. searches genes for pairs of missense SNP within the same gene and counts the number that are captured by scaffolds. does the same for SNP haplotypes generated by ReFHaP. summarises the data from the individual chromosomes that are output by the first two programmes into a single whole genome table.
  7. was used to obtain the mean and median gaps between informative SNP
  8. takes a list of vcf files and generates a new set with dbSNP annotation. DbSNP requires that each line has a VRT statement in the INFO section of the line. VRT=1 for SNP; VRT=2 for indels. There are several more for rearrangements that were disregarded see dbSNP_VCF_Submission.pdf.
    1. Takes a list of vcf.gz files from infiles.txt.
    2. Compiles a non-redundant list of samples in all the vcf files and if a sample is missing in any file it inserts it into the new file as a set of null (./.) alleles
    3. Prints out the new file with a standard order of samples so that they can be concatenated with vcf-concat (vcftools). dbSNP requires a single file.
    4. Adds header lines to the VCF file required by dbSNP these are taken from a two-column tab delimited file comments.txt as ID VALUE pairs. Additional comment lines can be included I added the ftp addresses for all fastq files in the European Nucleotide Archive from which the SNP were derived
    5. Adds an INFO line to the header describing the VRT format
    6. Adds VRT=1 or VRT=2 to the INFO field of each line as appropriate
    7. Sets an ID for each SNP: String_Chromosome#_serial#. Where string is set by the variable $idPrefix in the script.
    8. Skips lines with indels larger than 50bp, which are not handled by dbSNP.
    9. Outputs counts of each type of variant and a separate list of multi-allele variant counts to a file VCFalleleStats.txt. Useful for sanity checking


1. Suk E-K, McEwen GK, Duitama J, Nowick K, Schulz S, et al. (2011) A comprehensively molecular haplotype-resolved genome of a European individual. Genome Res 21: 1672–1685. doi:10.1101/gr.125047.111.