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. 2011 Aug 1;27(15):2156-8.
doi: 10.1093/bioinformatics/btr330. Epub 2011 Jun 7.

The Variant Call Format and VCFtools

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Free PMC article

The Variant Call Format and VCFtools

Petr Danecek et al. Bioinformatics. .
Free PMC article


Summary: The variant call format (VCF) is a generic format for storing DNA polymorphism data such as SNPs, insertions, deletions and structural variants, together with rich annotations. VCF is usually stored in a compressed manner and can be indexed for fast data retrieval of variants from a range of positions on the reference genome. The format was developed for the 1000 Genomes Project, and has also been adopted by other projects such as UK10K, dbSNP and the NHLBI Exome Project. VCFtools is a software suite that implements various utilities for processing VCF files, including validation, merging, comparing and also provides a general Perl API.



Fig. 1.
Fig. 1.
(a) Example of valid VCF. The header lines ##fileformat and #CHROM are mandatory, the rest is optional but strongly recommended. Each line of the body describes variants present in the sampled population at one genomic position or region. All alternate alleles are listed in the ALT column and referenced from the genotype fields as 1-based indexes to this list; the reference haplotype is designated as 0. For multiploid data, the separator indicates whether the data are phased (|) or unphased (/). Thus, the two alleles C and G at the positions 2 and 5 in this figure occur on the same chromosome in SAMPLE1. The first data line shows an example of a deletion (present in SAMPLE1) and a replacement of two bases by another base (SAMPLE2); the second line shows a SNP and an insertion; the third a SNP; the fourth a large structural variant described by the annotation in the INFO column, the coordinate is that of the base before the variant. (bf) Alignments and VCF representations of different sequence variants: SNP, insertion, deletion, replacement, and a large deletion. The REF columns shows the reference bases replaced by the haplotype in the ALT column. The coordinate refers to the first reference base. (g) Users are advised to use simplest representation possible and lowest coordinate in cases where the position is ambiguous.

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