GenomicAlignments (version 1.8.4)

findMateAlignment: Pairing the elements of a GAlignments object


Utilities for pairing the elements of a GAlignments object.

NOTE: Until BioC 2.13, findMateAlignment was the power horse used by readGAlignmentPairs for pairing the records loaded from a BAM file containing aligned paired-end reads. Starting with BioC 2.14, readGAlignmentPairs relies on scanBam(BamFile(asMates=TRUE), ...) for the pairing.


findMateAlignment(x) makeGAlignmentPairs(x, use.names=FALSE, use.mcols=FALSE, strandMode=1)
## Related low-level utilities: getDumpedAlignments() countDumpedAlignments() flushDumpedAlignments()


A named GAlignments object with metadata columns flag, mrnm, and mpos. Typically obtained by loading aligned paired-end reads from a BAM file with:
    param <- ScanBamParam(what=c("flag", "mrnm", "mpos"))
    x <- readGAlignments(..., use.names=TRUE, param=param)
Whether the names on the input object should be propagated to the returned object or not.
Names of the metadata columns to propagate to the returned GAlignmentPairs object.
Strand mode to set on the returned GAlignmentPairs object. See ?strandMode for more information.


For findMateAlignment: An integer vector of the same length as x, containing only positive or NA values, where the i-th element is interpreted as follow:
  • An NA value means that no mate or more than 1 mate was found for x[i].
  • A non-NA value j gives the index in x of x[i]'s mate.
For makeGAlignmentPairs: A GAlignmentPairs object where the pairs are formed internally by calling findMateAlignment on x.For getDumpedAlignments: NULL or a GAlignments object containing the dumped alignments. See "Dumped alignments" subsection in the "Details" section above for the details.For countDumpedAlignments: The number of dumped alignments.Nothing for flushDumpedAlignments.


Pairing algorithm used by findMateAlignment findMateAlignment is the power horse used by makeGAlignmentPairs for pairing the records loaded from a BAM file containing aligned paired-end reads.

It implements the following pairing algorithm:

  • First, only records with flag bit 0x1 (multiple segments) set to 1, flag bit 0x4 (segment unmapped) set to 0, and flag bit 0x8 (next segment in the template unmapped) set to 0, are candidates for pairing (see the SAM Spec for a description of flag bits and fields). findMateAlignment will ignore any other record. That is, records that correspond to single-end reads, or records that correspond to paired-end reads where one or both ends are unmapped, are discarded.

  • Then the algorithm looks at the following fields and flag bits:
    • (A) QNAME
    • (B) RNAME, RNEXT
    • (C) POS, PNEXT
    • (D) Flag bits Ox10 (segment aligned to minus strand) and 0x20 (next segment aligned to minus strand)
    • (E) Flag bits 0x40 (first segment in template) and 0x80 (last segment in template)
    • (F) Flag bit 0x2 (proper pair)
    • (G) Flag bit 0x100 (secondary alignment)
  • 2 records rec1 and rec2 are considered mates iff all the following conditions are satisfied:

    • (A) QNAME(rec1) == QNAME(rec2)
    • (B) RNEXT(rec1) == RNAME(rec2) and RNEXT(rec2) == RNAME(rec1)
    • (C) PNEXT(rec1) == POS(rec2) and PNEXT(rec2) == POS(rec1)
    • (D) Flag bit 0x20 of rec1 == Flag bit 0x10 of rec2 and Flag bit 0x20 of rec2 == Flag bit 0x10 of rec1
    • (E) rec1 corresponds to the first segment in the template and rec2 corresponds to the last segment in the template, OR, rec2 corresponds to the first segment in the template and rec1 corresponds to the last segment in the template
    • (F) rec1 and rec2 have same flag bit 0x2
    • (G) rec1 and rec2 have same flag bit 0x100

    Timing and memory requirement of the pairing algorithm The estimated timings and memory requirements on a modern Linux system are (those numbers may vary depending on your hardware and OS):

      nb of alignments |         time | required memory
            8 millions |       28 sec |          1.4 GB
           16 millions |       58 sec |          2.8 GB
           32 millions |        2 min |          5.6 GB
           64 millions | 4 min 30 sec |         11.2 GB
    This is for a GAlignments object coming from a file with an "average nb of records per unique QNAME" of 2.04. A value of 2 (which means the file contains only primary reads) is optimal for the pairing algorithm. A greater value, say > 3, will significantly degrade its performance. An easy way to avoid this degradation is to load only primary alignments by setting the isSecondaryAlignment flag to FALSE in ScanBamParam(). See examples in ?readGAlignmentPairs for how to do this.

    Ambiguous pairing The above algorithm will find almost all pairs unambiguously, even when the same pair of reads maps to several places in the genome. Note that, when a given pair maps to a single place in the genome, looking at (A) is enough to pair the 2 corresponding records. The additional conditions (B), (C), (D), (E), (F), and (G), are only here to help in the situation where more than 2 records share the same QNAME. And that works most of the times. Unfortunately there are still situations where this is not enough to solve the pairing problem unambiguously.

    For example, here are 4 records (loaded in a GAlignments object) that cannot be paired with the above algorithm:

    Showing the 4 records as a GAlignments object of length 4:

    GAlignments with 4 alignments and 2 metadata columns:
                        seqnames strand       cigar    qwidth     start    end
      SRR031714.2658602    chr2R      +  21M384N16M        37   6983850 6984270
      SRR031714.2658602    chr2R      +  21M384N16M        37   6983850 6984270
      SRR031714.2658602    chr2R      -  13M372N24M        37   6983858 6984266
      SRR031714.2658602    chr2R      -  13M378N24M        37   6983858 6984272
                            width     njunc |     mrnm      mpos
      SRR031714.2658602       421         1 |    chr2R   6983858
      SRR031714.2658602       421         1 |    chr2R   6983858
      SRR031714.2658602       409         1 |    chr2R   6983850
      SRR031714.2658602       415         1 |    chr2R   6983850
    Note that the BAM fields show up in the following columns:
    • QNAME: the names of the GAlignments object (unnamed col)
    • RNAME: the seqnames col
    • POS: the start col
    • RNEXT: the mrnm col
    • PNEXT: the mpos col

    As you can see, the aligner has aligned the same pair to the same location twice! The only difference between the 2 aligned pairs is in the CIGAR i.e. one end of the pair is aligned twice to the same location with exactly the same CIGAR while the other end of the pair is aligned twice to the same location but with slightly different CIGARs.

    Now showing the corresponding flag bits:

         isPaired isProperPair isUnmappedQuery hasUnmappedMate isMinusStrand
    [1,]        1            1               0               0             0
    [2,]        1            1               0               0             0
    [3,]        1            1               0               0             1
    [4,]        1            1               0               0             1
         isMateMinusStrand isFirstMateRead isSecondMateRead isSecondaryAlignment
    [1,]                 1               0                1                    0
    [2,]                 1               0                1                    0
    [3,]                 0               1                0                    0
    [4,]                 0               1                0                    0
         isNotPassingQualityControls isDuplicate
    [1,]                           0           0
    [2,]                           0           0
    [3,]                           0           0
    [4,]                           0           0

    As you can see, rec(1) and rec(2) are second mates, rec(3) and rec(4) are both first mates. But looking at (A), (B), (C), (D), (E), (F), and (G), the pairs could be rec(1) <-> rec(3) and rec(2) <-> rec(4), or they could be rec(1) <-> rec(4) and rec(2) <-> rec(3). There is no way to disambiguate!

    So findMateAlignment is just ignoring (with a warning) those alignments with ambiguous pairing, and dumping them in a place from which they can be retrieved later (i.e. after findMateAlignment has returned) for further examination (see "Dumped alignments" subsection below for the details). In other words, alignments that cannot be paired unambiguously are not paired at all. Concretely, this means that readGAlignmentPairs is guaranteed to return a GAlignmentPairs object where every pair was formed in an non-ambiguous way. Note that, in practice, this approach doesn't seem to leave aside a lot of records because ambiguous pairing events seem pretty rare.

    Dumped alignments Alignments with ambiguous pairing are dumped in a place ("the dump environment") from which they can be retrieved with getDumpedAlignments() after findMateAlignment has returned.

    Two additional utilities are provided for manipulation of the dumped alignments: countDumpedAlignments for counting them (a fast equivalent to length(getDumpedAlignments())), and flushDumpedAlignments to flush "the dump environment". Note that "the dump environment" is automatically flushed at the beginning of a call to findMateAlignment.

    See Also


    Run this code
    bamfile <- system.file("extdata", "ex1.bam", package="Rsamtools",
    param <- ScanBamParam(what=c("flag", "mrnm", "mpos"))
    x <- readGAlignments(bamfile, use.names=TRUE, param=param)
    mate <- findMateAlignment(x)
    galp0 <- makeGAlignmentPairs(x)
    galp <- makeGAlignmentPairs(x,, use.mcols="flag")

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