Gaps and complex structurally variant loci in phased genome assemblies


  • D. Porubsky
  • M.R. Vollger
  • W.T. Harvey
  • A.N. Rozanski
  • P. Ebert
  • G. Hickey
  • P. Hasenfeld
  • A.D. Sanders
  • C. Stober
  • J.O. Korbel
  • B. Paten
  • T. Marschall
  • E.E. Eichler


  • Genome Research


  • Genome Res 33 (4): 496-510


  • There has been tremendous progress in phased genome assembly production by combining long-read data with parental information or linked-read data. Nevertheless, a typical phased genome assembly generated by trio-hifiasm still generates more than 140 gaps. We perform a detailed analysis of gaps, assembly breaks, and misorientations from 182 haploid assemblies obtained from a diversity panel of 77 unique human samples. Although trio-based approaches using HiFi are the current gold standard, chromosome-wide phasing accuracy is comparable when using Strand-seq instead of parental data. Importantly, the majority of assembly gaps cluster near the largest and most identical repeats (including segmental duplications [35.4%], satellite DNA [22.3%], or regions enriched in GA/AT-rich DNA [27.4%]). Consequently, 1513 protein-coding genes overlap assembly gaps in at least one haplotype, and 231 are recurrently disrupted or missing from five or more haplotypes. Furthermore, we estimate that 6-7 Mbp of DNA are misorientated per haplotype irrespective of whether trio-free or trio-based approaches are used. Of these misorientations, 81% correspond to bona fide large inversion polymorphisms in the human species, most of which are flanked by large segmental duplications. We also identify large-scale alignment discontinuities consistent with 11.9 Mbp of deletions and 161.4 Mbp of insertions per haploid genome. Although 99% of this variation corresponds to satellite DNA, we identify 230 regions of euchromatic DNA with frequent expansions and contractions, nearly half of which overlap with 197 protein-coding genes. Such variable and incompletely assembled regions are important targets for future algorithmic development and pangenome representation.