Generated on 2017-10-13 at 19:09.

Snaptron User Guide

Questions can be asked in the project’s Gitter channel.

To cite Snaptron:

Christopher Wilks, Phani Gaddipati, Abhinav Nellore, Ben Langmead; Snaptron: querying splicing patterns across tens of thousands of RNA-seq samples, Bioinformatics, (2017), btx547,

Snaptron Client Quickstart

The Snaptron command-line client is a lightweight Python interface for querying the Snaptron web services which are documented in detail below.

To run the client (assuming Python is in the path):

git clone
cd snaptron-experiments

The following are examples of using the Snaptron client, some of which are from the Snaptron preprint. The default data compilation is SRAv2 (~50K samples, ~81M junctions).

To get all splice junctions which fall fully within the BRCA1 gene extent with a sample count of at least 100 which are included in at least one annotation (both splice sites):

./qs --region "BRCA1" --contains 1 --filters "samples_count>=100&annotated=1"

If instead you have a coordinate-defined region rather than a gene, you could do the following to look for junctions which overlap the region and are potentially novel but also have significant sample and read support:

./qs --region "chr2:29446395-30142858" --filters "samples_count>=100&coverage_sum>=150"

You can further limit queries by searching for keywords in the sample-associated metadata. The following query returns all junctions which overlap the region of the KMT2E gene which occur in at least 5 samples which also contain the keyword “cortex” in their description field:

./qs --region "KMT2E" --filters "samples_count>=5" --metadata "description:cortex"

This query will return all junctions (no filtering) that overlap the gene TP53 from the TCGA (cancer-related) data compilation:

./qs --region "TP53" --datasrc tcga

The following will return all sample metadata for those samples which contain the keyword “brain” in their description field ranked by a TF-IDF score determining that sample’s relevance to the query:

./qs --metadata "description:brain"

The analyses from the Snaptron preprint can be recreated as a whole with the following command:


Individual commands from the Snaptron preprint are as follows (except SSC due to its length). These are also documented in the scripts/ directory of the snaptron-experiments repository.

  1. Tissue specificity (TS) for repetitive element loci (REL) junctions analysis (assumes Rscript is in the path):

    ./qs --query-file ./data/rel_splices.hg38.snap.tsv --function ts --datasrc gtex | tee ./rel_ts_list.tsv | Rscript ./scripts/tissue_specificty_testing.R
  2. Junction inclusion ratio (JIR) with additional filtering for total coverage:

    ./qs --query-file data/alk_alt_tss.hg19.snap.tsv --function jir --datasrc srav1 | perl -ne 'chomp; $s=$_; if($s=~/jir_score/) { print "$s\n"; next}; @f=split(/\t/,$_); next if($f[1]+$f[2] < 50); print "".join("\t",@f)."\n";' > alk_alt_tss.hg19.srav1.jir_results.tsv

RESTful Web Services Interface Quickstart

First, we will present an example query and then break it down to allow the impatient users to get on with their research and skip the longer explanation of the details:

curl ""

The above command uses cURL to query the Snaptron web service for all junctions that overlap the coordinate range of 1-514015 on chromosome 6 and that have 1 or more reads coverage in exactly 100 samples (for CGI parsing reasons the .:. is used instead of .=. as a range operator). The return format is a TAB delimited text stream of junction records, one per line including a header as the first line to explain the columns returned.

Gene symbols (exact HGNC gene symbols) can also be used instead of chromosome coordinates:

curl ""

If the gene symbol maps to multiple genomic regions they will all be returned by the Snaptron web services rather than Snaptron attempting to decide which region is being requested.

A Snaptron query is a set of predicates logically AND’ed together from three different query types, each with their own format. Table 1 displays the four different query types. The three main query types are: region, range over a summary statistics column (.range.), a freetext/field search of the associated sample metadata (.metadata.), and an exact ID retrieval for both exon-exon junctions (Snaptron assigned IDs) and samples (Intropolis-assigned IDs).

A snaptron query may contain only one of the three types of queries or may contain all three, or some combination of two types. In one of the examples above the region and range query types are present as chr6:1-514015 for the region type and samples_count:100 for the range type.

Snaptron Compilations (instances)

There are currently (11/16/2016) four Snaptron instances indexing different data sources (modify the example URL for your own queries):

  • TCGA: ~36 million junctions from ~11 thousand public samples from the TCGA consortium sequences using HG38 reference:

  • GTEx: ~30 million junctions from ~10 thousand public samples from the GTEx consortium sequences using HG38 reference:

  • SRAv2: ~81 million junctions from ~49 thousand public samples from the Sequence Read Archive using HG38 reference:

  • SRAv1 (legacy, replaced by SRAv2): ~42 million junctions from ~21 thousand public samples from the Sequence Read Archive using HG19 reference:

Raw Data and Indices

All data and the associated indices backing Snaptron are available here (by compilation):

Forbidden Characters

Because of how Snaptron parses queries the following characters are not allowed as part of search terms/phrases:


Sample Metadata

Each of the above compilations has its own set of sample metadata with varying field names and definitions. Snaptron indexes these metadata fields in a document store (Lucene) for full text retrieval. Numeric columns (e.g. RIN in the GTEx compilation) are indexed to support range based lookups.

Query metadata and sample metadata text is converted to lower case before indexing/querying to make searches case-insensitive.

Both sample-only searches and junction searches limited by a sample predicate can be performed:

curl ">8"

will return a list of samples which have a RIN value > 8.

curl ""

will return a list of junctions and their list of summary stats calcuated from the intersection of the region and rfilter predicates and which contain at least one sample in the list of samples which have “cortex” in their description field.

Further, you can also query by sample ID to simply return all the metadata for the submitted set of sample IDs:

curl ",2,500"

A complete list of all sample metadata fields and types stored and indexed by Snaptron are available for each compilation:

  • TCGA

  • GTEx

  • SRAv2

  • SRAv1

Sample Metadata Field Types

Lucene types are reported for each field in the above TSV files:

  • text

Input field tokenized into one or more terms by whitespace before indexing to support “contains” searching

Example: a free-text description of the RNA-seq sequencing protocol

  • string

Input field indexed as one term (not tokenized)

Example: controlled vocabulary field such as an NCBI sample accession

  • integer

Numeric input field indexed to support range searches

Example: age at diagnosis for a cancer patient

  • float

Numeric input field indexed to support range searches, used if any floating point values were present in input

Example: RNA-seq integrity value (RIN)

NOTE: Lucene stores the input field as a float, but range queries need to be specified as integers for now, even for float fields

If a metadata field for a particular sample is empty/NA or is a string and the field type is numeric, that particular entry is set to NULL in Lucene.

Example WSI Queries

[Result counts below include header(s)]

Results: 46; Time: 0m1.179s:

curl ">:100&rfilter=annotated:1"

Results: 40; Time: 0m0.736s:

curl ">:100&rfilter=coverage_sum>:150"

Results: 27; Time: 0m1.129s:

curl ">:5&sfilter=description:cortex"

Reference Tables

Table 1. Query Types

Query Type Description Multiplicity Format Example
Region chromosome based coordinates range (1-based); HUGO gene name 1 chr(1-22,X,Y,M):1-size of chromosome; gene_name chr21:1-500; CD99
Filter range over summary statistic column values 1 or more column_name(>:,<:,:)number (integer or float) coverage_avg>:10
Sample Metadata keyword and numeric range search over sample metadata 1 or more fieldname(>:,<:,:)keyword description:cortex; SMRIN>:8
Snaptron IDs one or more snaptron_ids 1 or more ids=d+[,d+]* ids=5,7,8
Sample IDs one or more sample_ids 1 or more ids=d+[,d+]* ids=20,40,100

Table 2. List of Snaptron Parameters

Parameter WSI Endpoints Values # Occurrences Example Description
regions snaptron chr[1-22XYM]:d+-d+; HUGO gene name 1 but can take multiple arguments separated by a comma representing an OR chr1:1-5000;DRD4 coordinate intervals and/or HUGO gene names
ids* snaptron; samples ids=d+[,d+]* 1 ids=5,6,7 ID filter for snaptron_id (endpoint=snaptron) and sample_id (endpoint=samples)
rfilter snaptron fieldname[><!:]value 0 or more rfilter=samples_count>:5&rfilter=coverage_sum:3 point range filter (inclusion)
sfilter snaptron; samples fieldname:value OR freetext 0 or more sfilter=description:Cortex&sfilter=library_strategy:RNA-Seq sample metadata filter (inclusion)
contains snaptron 0,1 0-1 occurrences contains=1 return only those junctions whose start and end coordinates are within the boundaries of the region (using either coordinates directly or passed in gene name)
exact snaptron 0,1 0-1 occurrences exact=1 return only those junctions whose start and end coordinates are match the boundaries of the region requested
either snaptron 0,1,2 0-1 occurrences either=2 return only those junctions whose start (either=1) or end (either=2) coordinate match or are within the boundaries of the region requested
header snaptron 0,1 0-1 occurrences header=0 include the header as the first line (or not)
fields** snaptron fields=fieldname[,fieldname]* 0 or more unique fieldnames within one fields clause fields=snaptron_id,samples_count which fields to return

* The ids parameter cannot be used with other parameters.

**can include non-return field options such as: rc (result count)

Individual records for junctions can be accessed via the Snaptron ID directly as:

curl ""

and for a sample record through its Rail ID:

curl ""

Tables 3 and 4 show the queryable fields for region and range query types respectively. Fields from tables 3 and 4 can be mixed together in the same query though only one region predicate is allowed per query as specified in Table 1 above.

Table 3. Region Query Fields (“regions” parameter)

Field Range of Values Example Description
coordinate* chr(1-22;X;Y;M):1-size of chromosome chr1:4-100 chromosome:start-end
gene symbol* a-zA-Z0-9 CD99 HUGO (HGNC) gene symbols

*you can either pass a coordinate string or a gene symbol in the interval query segment, but not both

Often the query filter columns (Table 4) can be used as a way to reduce the number of false positive junctions. This can be done easily with the two columns: samples_count and coverage_sum. Some suggested values from our own research are presented in Table 5.

Table 4. Query Filter Fields (“rfilter” parameter)

Field Range of Values Example Description
length 1-500K intron_length<:5000 length of exon-exon junction (intron)
annotated 0 or 1 annotated:1 whether both left and right splice sites in one or more annotations (default is both)
strand + or - strand:+ which strand to require (default is both)
samples_count 1-Inf samples_count>:5 number of samples in which this junction has one or more reads covering it
coverage_sum 1-Inf coverage_sum>:10 aggregate count of reads covering the junction across all samples the junction appears in
coverage_avg 1.0-Inf coverage_avg>:5.0 average of read coverage across all samples the junction appears in
coverage_median 1.0-Inf coverage_median>:6.0 median of read coverage across all samples the junction appears in

Exact HUGO (HGNC) gene symbols can be searched in snaptron SRA instance in lieu of actual coordinates. If the gene symbol had multiple coordinate ranges that were either on different chromosomes or more than 10,000 bases apart, Snaptron will do multiple tabix lookups and will stream them back in coordinate order per chromosome (the chromosome order itself is sorted via default python sorted which is not 1-22,X,Y,M).

The gene symbol to coordinate mapping is provided from the UCSC RefSeq .Flat. dataset:

That dataset maps HUGO (HGNC) gene symbols to RefSeq gene IDs and transcript coordinates.

The return format is a TAB-delimited series of fields where each line represents a unique intron call. Table 5 displays the complete list of fields in the return format of the Snaptron web service. The chromosome, start, and, end fields are a special case where the index is a combination of all three of them together.

Table 5. Complete list of Snaptron Fields In Return Format

Field Index Indexed? Field Name Type Description
1 No DataSource:Type Abbrev:Single Character Differentiates between a return line of type Intron (I), Sample (S), or Gene (G).
2 Yes snaptron_id Integer stable, unique ID for Snaptron junctions
3 Yes chromosome String Reference ID for genomics coordinates
4 Yes start Integer beginning (left) coordinate of intron
5 Yes end Integer last (right) coordinate of intron
6 Yes length Integer Length of intron coordinate span
7 Yes strand Single Character Orientation of intron (Watson or Crick)
8 Yes annotated Boolean Integer If both ends of the intron are annotated as a splice site in some annotation
9 No left_motif String Splice site sequence bases at the left end of the intron
10 No right_motif String Splice site sequence bases at the right end of the intron
11 No left_annotated String If the left end splice site is annotated or not and which annotations it appears in (maybe more than once)
12 No right_annotated String If the right end splice site is in an annotated or not, same as left_annotated
13 No samples* Comma separated list of tuples: integer:integer The list of samples which had one or more reads covering the intron and their coverages. IDs are from the IntropolisDB.
14 Yes samples_count Integer Total number of samples that have one or more reads covering this junction
15 Yes coverage_sum Integer Sum of all samples coverage for this junction
16 Yes coverage_avg Float Average coverage across all samples which had at least 1 read covering the intron in the first pass alignment
17 Yes coverage_median Float Median coverage across all samples which had at least 1 read covering the intron in the first pass alignment
18 No source_dataset_id Integer Snaptron ID for the original dataset used (SRA, GTEx, TCGA)

* this field always starts with a ,; this is due to how it is searched when samples are used to filter a junction query (R+M or R+F+M)

Mock Graphical User Interface

As a limited example of a downstream interface that can be built on top of the Snaptron web service interface there is the Snaptron GUI for which there are several instances for various datasets:

TCGA (~11K samples, ~36M junctions):
GTEx (~10K samples, ~30M junctions):
SRAv2 (~50K samples, ~81M junctions):
SRAv1 (~21K samples, ~42M junctions):

Caveat emptor, these instances are provided as examples only for the time being. While they serve real data and may prove useful for investigations, they are not guaranteed to be stable/performant in any way.