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CWL+Singularity implementation of an RNA editing workflow

Project README


Note: Current changes to master may be unstable! Use the frozen singularity file to reproduce paper results.

Note # 2: You should check whether your aligner provides the MD tag, as this is necessary to determine the non A/G mismatches between the reference and query.

Software for Accurately Identifying Locations Of RNA-editing (SAILOR)

SAILOR implements published methodologies to assess adenosine to inosine changes in RNA-SEQ data for easy identification of transcriptome-wide editing. The SAILOR pipeline is available as both a CWL workflow and as a Singularity container and is designed for ease of use to run with one command. It requires a BAM-formatted file of the sequence alignments, a FASTA-formatted reference genome sequence (of any organism or cell-type), and a BED3-formatted file of known SNPs. SAILOR allows the user to specify a range of filtering criteria including: Non A-to-I mismatch rate, location of mismatches (to account for biases at the end of reads), and a minimum read coverage required to call variants. Users may relax any of these filtering criteria and/or pursue analysis of A-to-I editing sites with lower confidence scores.


Install singularity

Download executable into an empty directory

That's it!

Running the Pipeline:

Mark downloaded programme as executable:

chmod +x sailor-1.0.4

Display a brief overview of options and expected parameters:


Type 'y' to populate the current folder with example files:

Do you want me to copy now into your current directory an example of data input files and a job template (y/-):y

Execute the analysis using the provided example YAML file pointing to the appropriate bundled example files

./sailor-1.0.4 ce11_example.yaml

Running the data with required arguments:

Running time for the examples should be quick! Running on a complete dataset takes a few hours for C elegans data, so sit back and relax by reading the rest of this README.

These are the minimum required arguments needed to run the pipeline (you can view the same information inside the example.yml file):

This is a BAM file (Example) of your reads aligned to the genome. You can generate this file using any short read aligner, and it does not need to be sorted (the pipeline will split + sort things for you). Note: You should check whether your aligner provides the MD tag, as this is necessary to determine the non A/G mismatches between the reference and query. Our example.bam is a downsampled BAM file containing the first 10,000 lines (9,983 reads) of a real sample:

  class: File
  path: ce11_example_single_end.bam

This describes the reference genome in FASTA format (Example) (used in the mpileup step), which specifies the reference for which variant reads are compared against. The included reference is the first chromosome of a ce11 assembly:

  class: File
  path: ce11.chrI.fa

This file contains a list of known SNPs (Example) which will be filtered from the list of candidate editing sites. The example file contains just one SNP in BED3 format (0-based, half-open), which can be used to remove sites that we know aren't editing sites, but are known SNPs:

  class: File
  path: ce11_known_SNPs.bed

Running the data with optional arguments:

The pipeline only requires 3 arguments: The BAM file, the reference genome, and a list of known SNPs to filter out. If you find that using default parameters are not fit to your data, you may want to play around with the optional arguments. Here is the full list and explanation of optional arguments you can provide as needed in the job file (You can find an example YAML configuaration file here):

This parameter [true] or false specifies whether or not we're dealing with a reversely stranded library:

reverse_stranded_library: true

This option [true] or false specifies whether or not the reads are single or paired end. This is equivalent to the -s option of samtools rmdup step, which is part of the workflow. However, each read will still be split according to strand which will affect paired-end reads oriented opposite each other:

single_end: true

This specifies how much overlap is minimally required for a read spanning a junction to be counted. What this really means is when aligned to a reference, if there is a gap between the read (aka spans an intron), we want to ensure there is sufficient overlap in the two sides spanning that gap. See CIGAR 'N' for more details:

junction_overhang: 10

This removes reads with mutations this many nucleotides away from the read. We want to avoid any variations at the read ends where sequencing errors and technical artifacts are more likely to occur:

edge_mutation: 5

This specifies the maximum amount of non-AG variations (or TC antisense) we expect per read. If we see multiple AG variants, great! However if we see many unexpected non-AG variants on a per-read basis, we can conservatively remove them from downstream analysis:

# remove reads with more than [1] unexpected mutation (one that isn't A-G or T-C antisense).
non_ag: 1

This provides a hard filter for variants prior to scoring. By default, for any site to be considered, it must have a total coverage of 5. In this workflow, total coverage is calculated by either the DP flag (specifying coverage), or the 'DP4' flag, specifying "high quality" coverage. This option can be set with the dp: field. See samtools mpileup for more info:

min_variant_coverage: 5
dp: DP4

These parameters can relax or tighten the beta distribution curve used to score confident editing sites. Essentially these numbers adjust the pseudocount added to variant site coverage. Therefore increasing the alpha and beta parameters will generally relax coverage requirements, which is sometimes useful for low-coverage data. See the original paper for more info:

alpha: 0
beta: 0
edit_fraction: 0.01

This parameter specifies options to either 1) keep 100% edited sites as confident 'edited' sites (true), or 2) flag as 'possible snps' (false):

keep_all_edited: false

This parameter specifies whether or not you want to skip the 'samtools rmdup' step of the pipeline:

skip_duplicate_removal: false


There are lots of intermediate files, but the ones we want are the bed files (it's a long name, but it helps trace all the steps and filters that the pipeline goes through):


These BED6 files correspond to candidate editing sites found at either the positive strand (fwd) or negative strand (rev):

Format of the BED file:

  1. chromosome
  2. start (0-based) index of an editing site
  3. end (open) index of an editing site
  4. unique name containing information about coverage|variant type|edit% (84|A>G|0.011904762 corresponds to an A>G (+) site covered by 84 reads that is ~1% edited)
  5. confidence score
  6. strand

You can load these BED files onto IGV and see if your gene of interest is edited. For a more global viewpoint, you will need to filter this BED file based on the 'confidence score' (tab 5) using anything that can sort/filter a tabbed file. Then you can look at these filtered sites on IGV.

If you don't see many sites, you can relax the parameters, or look into the intermediate files described below:

If our sample is sample.bam, we expect to obtain a list of the following outputs (for both fwd and rev stranded edits):

sorted BAM file:


sorted BAM file with 'duplicate reads' removed (defined as reads sharing the same external mapped coordinates, keeping reads with the highest mapping quality (see samtools):


The above BAM file filtered of reads that do not pass read-centric thresholds:


The above BAM file as pileup in gbcf (binary) format:


The above gbcf file in human-readable vcf format:


The above vcf file in a more familiar vcf format:


The above vcf file filtered of SNVs that do not pass the position-centric thresholds:


The above vcf file filtered of SNVs that are also known SNPs:


The above vcf file in a tabular 'confidence' format, showing:

Format (tabs) of the conf file:
  1. (#CHROM) : chromosome
  2. (POS) : 1-based position of the editing site
  3. (NUM_READS) : number of total coverage
  4. (REF) : reference allele
  5. (ALT) : alternate allele
  6. (CONFIDENCE) : confidence score
  7. (POST_PSEUDOCOUNT_EDIT%) : if we add pseudocounts, the edit % will be here
  8. (PRE_PSEUDOCOUNT_EDIT%) : native edit %
  9. (FILTER) : either PASS for a valid editing candidate (regardless of score), or SNP if the site was 100% A>G
  10. (INFO) : vcf "info" column (see vcf format for details)
  11. (GENOTYPE) : vcf "genotype" column
  12. (baz) : vcf "genotype value" column

Other notes.

If using python3.8, you might run into a warning related to buffer size (ie. RuntimeWarning: line buffering (buffering=1) isn't supported in binary mode, the default buffer size will be used


This was identified here and doesn't appear to affect this pipeline.


Washburn, M. C., Kakaradov, B., Sundararaman, B., Wheeler, E., Hoon, S., Yeo, G. W., & Hundley, H. A. (2014): The dsRBP and inactive editor ADR-1 utilizes dsRNA binding to regulate A-to-I RNA editing across the C. elegans transcriptome. Cell reports, 6(4), 599-607.

Amstutz, Peter; Crusoe, Michael R.; Tijanić, Nebojša; Chapman, Brad; Chilton, John; Heuer, Michael; Kartashov, Andrey; Leehr, Dan; Ménager, Hervé; Nedeljkovich, Maya; Scales, Matt; Soiland-Reyes, Stian; Stojanovic, Luka (2016): Common Workflow Language, v1.0. figshare. Retrieved: 22 13, May 11, 2017 (GMT)

Kurtzer GM, Sochat V, Bauer MW (2017): Singularity: Scientific containers for mobility of compute. PLoS ONE 12(5): e0177459.

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