Next generation sequencing (NGS) allows investigating mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) characteristics such as heteroplasmy (i.e. intra-individual sequence variation) to a higher level of detail. While several pipelines for analyzing heteroplasmies exist, issues in usability, accuracy of results and interpreting final data limit their usage. Here we present mtDNA-Server, a scalable web server for the analysis of mtDNA studies of any size with a special focus on usability as well as reliable identification and quantification of heteroplasmic variants. The mtDNA-Server workflow includes parallel read alignment, heteroplasmy detection, artefact or contamination identification, variant annotation as well as several quality control metrics, often neglected in current mtDNA NGS studies. All computational steps are parallelized with Hadoop MapReduce and executed graphically with Cloudgene. We validated the underlying heteroplasmy and contamination detection model by generating four artificial sample mix-ups on two different NGS devices. Our evaluation data shows that mtDNA-Server detects heteroplasmies and artificial recombinations down to the 1% level with perfect specificity and outperforms existing approaches regarding sensitivity. mtDNA-Server is currently able to analyze the 1000G Phase 3 data (n = 2,504) in less than 5 h and is freely accessible at https://mtdna-server.uibk.ac.at.
© The Author(s) 2016. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Nucleic Acids Research.