Tuesday, June 21, 2016

VisuMap version 4.7 with Whole Genome Browser Released.

I have just released VisuMap version 4.7 on our web site. Apart from many GPU related optimizations of 3D data visualization, this release includes a heat map style data view to visualize long discrete sequences. A whole genome with billions of nucleotides can be aggregated and displayed in a single 2D map. The following screen snapshot shows, for example, the exome distribution of the first human chromosome:

We notice that most genome browsers current available are depth oriented: their exploration are normally focused on relatively small sections of the genome. The whole genome browser in VisuMap offers a new way to help people to explore genome wide patterns and profiling. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Visualizing Gene Sequences with complementary GMS

We now know that there are about 20 000 protein coding genes in the whole human genome. How do they relate to each other?  Is there any geometrical structure among them? What  shape do they form?  Aiming at these questions,  I'll put forward here a method to generate scatter plot from gene sequences that shows the shape of a gene collection.

In recently blogs, I have described GMS framework to profile gene sequences which translates discrete sequence to high dimensional curvature vectors. We could use this method to convert a collection of gene sequences to a set of high dimensional vectors and then apply MDS algorithm to embed them in a low dimensional space. However, if we restrict our focus on protein coding sequence (CDS), the length of CDS varies from few hundreds to tens of thousands nucleotides. That means, the profiling curvature vectors for CDS sequences are of very different dimensions. This in general causes difficulties for most MDS algorithms as they normally accept only vectors of a common dimension.

In order to obtain profiling vectors of the same length from sequences of variable length, we extended our GMS framework as follows: we first select a short reference sequence; Then for each CDS sequence, we mix the reference sequence with the CDS sequence and pass them together to the GMS framework. After the GMS framework embedded the two sequence into the low dimensional space, we then calculate the curvature profile of the curve of the reference sequence, and use it as a profiling vector for the CDS sequence. The modified framework is depicted as follows:

We notice that the reference sequence and the CDS sequence are embedded together in the same space, so that their curves occupy complementary area of the low dimensional space. That means the curvature profile of the reference sequence carries information about the complementary space of the CDS sequence. More generally, we can expect that different CDS sequences will produce different complementary profile as they have different impact on the reference sequence.

For this note I have downloaded the CDS sequences of the first chromosome of the human genome from the Ensembl.org web site; There are about 2000 protein coding genes whose length very from few hundreds to more than 26 thousands nucleotides. As reference sequence, I picked a short CDS sequence of CDS collection (the gene ENSG00000187170) that has only 300 nucleotides. The following picture shows the complementary curvature profile the CDS sequences: each row of the heatmap shows the curvature of the reference sequence mixed with one CDS sequence; bright colors indicate high curvatures. The line chart under the heatmap shows the complementary profile of 4 selected CDS sequences marked in the heamap

We see that these profiles at large have high curvatures at about half dozens regions, but the height and exact location of those high curvature peaks depend on the corresponding CDS sequence. It is important to notice that I have in the previous blog demonstrated that the curvature profile is a characteristics that is invariant from the random nature of the mapping algorithm. Thus, those small variation are not due to the random nature of the mapping algorithm used, they ought to be attributed to different interaction (or "affinity") between the CDS sequence and the reference sequence.

Having obtained one complementary curvature vector for each CDS sequence, we can then apply a MDS algorithm on these high dimensional vectors to embed them in low dimensional space. For this purpose, I have used the tSNE algorithm. The following picture shows a 3D map for these CDS sequences:
Curvature Profile Map of 2045 CDS sequences created with tSNE algorithm

The above map is linked to a short video, you can click on the map to see the 3D map in animation. Also, for the purpose of easy exploration I have added different colors to the different regions on the map with the k-Mean clustering algorithm.

It should be noticed that the selection of the reference sequence has essential impact on the curvature profile and the final map. To see this, I have picked another sequence, the CDS sequence of gene with id ENSG00000158481 (with about 1000 nucleotides,) as reference sequence and repeated the whole procedure. The following picture shows the corresponding complementary curvature profile and the tSNE map of the 2045 CDS sequences:

Curvature Profile and tSNE map of the 2045 CDS sequences with ENSG00000158481 as reference sequence
We see that both the curvature profile and the final map are very different from those created previously with a different reference sequence.

It is not yet clear how the reference sequence impacts the complementary curvatures. Intuitively, the reference sequence plays a role like the a projection plane that we often use to project high dimensional data to 2-dimensional space for visualization purpose. Thus, selecting an appropriate reference sequence might help us to see interesting geometrical structure among large collection of gene sequences.

About the sample data

The sample genome data is downloaded from Ensembl.org web site in fasta format. The fasta data file is imported into VisuMap with a special plugin. The zipped file here contains the VisuMap sample file, the plugin for importing fasta files and a script "CurvatureProfiling.js" to run the simulations. Before running the simulation, the plugin module GeneticAnalysis.dll need to be installed into VisuMap.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Curvature as secondary profiling of GMS maps.

As a profiling method, GMS translates discrete sequences to space curves which help us to explore sequence features (treats) with help of geometrical shapes. Yet, space curves still pose a challenge for direct pattern recognition. This is especially so, when we try to explore patterns among large collection of  sequences.

In this note I'll put forward a method to use curvature to capture characteristic of GMS space curves. Some experiments with sample data will show that curvature profile are suitable for pattern analysis of large collection of GMS space curves.

Curvature of  space curves

Curvature is a concept introduced in mathematics to measure how far a segment of a geometrical shape deviates from being flat. Intuitively for space curves, the curvature of a curve at a point measures how strong the curve is bent at the point.

More formally, Let P1, P2, ..., be a series of points in the 3 dimensional space representing a space curve, then for the purpose of this note, we use the following simple formula to estimate the curvature, κk, at point Pk:
As shown in above diagram, α is the angle between the two segments PkPk+1 and Pk+1Pk+2; s is the length of the segment PkPk+2. If Pk are the 3-dimensional coordinate vectors of the points, then the above formula becomes:
Thus, the curvature  profile of space curve is a series real number values, κk, that measure how strong the curve is bent at each point. In practice, when we calculate curvature profile of a GMS curve, we don't need to calculate the curvature at each point, but just at points sparsely and evenly sampled from the the GMS curves. For the sake of simplicity, we simply select one point from for each input sequence node. That means, for a sequence with n nodes, we calculate a n-dimensional curvature profile. The following diagram shows the whole work-flow to calculate the curvature profile from a discrete sequence:

Above work-flow is mainly an extension of the one in a previous note, where more detailed explanation is provided. The only modification to the work-flow is an extra step that calculates  curvature profile from the GMS curve of the first clone. As will be discussed latter in this note, it has been turned out in the simulation experiments that the clones normally have about the same curvature profile.

Characteristics of curvature profile

Curvature profile has several properties which make it suitable to characterize GMS space curves. First, just from its definition we know that the curvature profile is rotation and shifting invariant, so that rotation and shifting information are automatically removed from curvature profile. Because of this running GMS algorithm multiple times on a sequence will results in the same curvature profile, even when the corresponding space curve are rotated and shifted differently due to some random nature within the GMS algorithm.

Going one step further we can change the number of clones in the GMS algorithm. The resulting spaces curves for the clones normally vary systematically in shape and size; Yet their corresponding curvature profiles are more or less similar to each other. The following diagram shows the curvature profiles of  5 clones of sequence with 5 fold cloning:

We notice in above picture that the curvature profiles for the middle or inner clones have noticeably larger peaks than those of the outer clones; and there is symmetry alone the middle (the third) profile. These curvature profiles shows that all 5 space curves bend more or less at common positions and the inner curves bend slightly more than those outer curves. On the right side of above picture are the 5 curvature profiles displayed as a heatmap. As will be seen below, heatmap offers a better way to visualize large collection of curvature profiles.

Another interesting property of the curvature profile is that they are in general independent on the sampling frequency of the GMS algorithm. High frequency sampling normally results in smoother space curves, but their shape remain mostly unchanged. The following picture shows the curvature profile of another sequence with sampling frequency of 6, 8, 10, 12 and 14 scans-per-node. The 5 curvature profile are almost identical.

Profiling Transmutation

In addition to the invariant characteristics, the curvature profiles of similar sequences are in general similar. This property enables us to study systematical variation among large collections of sequences by visualizing their corresponding curvature profiles.  We demonstrate this method here with an example that simulates a transmutation process. As the be shown in the following diagram, transmutation is the process that one sequence gradually mutates to another sequence.

For the sake of simplicity we assume that both sequences, A and B, have the same length N. A simple transmutation process is that an increasingly longer sub-sequence A replaces a corresponding sub-section in B. More particularly, the simple transmutation is realized by the sequence Tk(A, B) := A[1, k]*B[k+1, N]; where k=1, 2, ..., N; A[1,k] is the sequence of the first k nodes of A; B[K+1, N] is the sequence of the last N-k nodes of B; * is the concatenation operation.

With help of GMS algortihm we can calculate the space curves of Tk; k=1,2,..., N; and then calculate their curvature profiles as N-dimensional vectors. For this example we have used two sequences of 1377 nodes (one of them is the CCDS of CD4); The following picture shows their 1377 curvature profiles displayed as an single heat map (the three curve charts on the right side are profiles of the transmutation sequence at 3 particular times) :

In above heat map we can notice a variation region that runs from top left corner to the right bottom corner, this feature indicates that during the transmutation process, only the part of the space curve that is close to the mutated node undergoes significant change. In other words, features of space curve can be traced back to individual nodes in the transmutation sequence.

As the curvature profiles are vectors of the same dimension we can use a MDS (multidimensional scaling algorithm) algorithm to map them to a low dimensional space, so that we can see their sharp. The following pictures is a 2-dimensional map generated with the t-SNE algorithm for those curvature profiles in above example:

In above map, each dot represents the curvature profile of a transmutation sequence. As a property of MDS maps,  closely located dots normally represent transmutations with smaller effects on curvatures. Thus, this map can help us to locate sequence regions which cause large change in space curve.


Curvature profile purposed in this note is a secondary characteristics of discrete sequences, it can help us to study patterns and structures among large collection of discrete sequences. Whereas GMS algorithm provides a mean to geometricalize individual sequences; curvature profile offers a tool to geometricalize a set of sequences as a whole. Various invariant properties and visualization experiments discussed in this note seem to validate curvature profile as suitable characteristics for discrete sequences.

During the searching for such characteristics I have experimented with several other quantities, like quantities derived from the rotation speed, torsion and velocities. Curvature profile as purposed above seems to have the best properties among all the tested quantities. It should also be pointed out that the curve curvature purposed in this note differs slightly from the standard defintion. The reason for this discrepancy is that the standard mathematical definition is unstable when the sampling points are located in tiny regions with noise. For evenly distributed curve sampling points, the purposed curvature formula approximates the standard definition pretty well.

In general, curvature profile together with certain MDS algorithm could provide an interesting tool to explore similarities and patterns among sequential structures and shapes encountered in microbiology.

Monday, May 25, 2015

GMS for DNA profiling

In this note I am going to describe a GMS based algorithm to convert DNA sequences to geometrical shapes with visually identifiable features. I'll apply this algorithm to real genetic sequences to demonstrate its profiling capability.

The  main steps of the DNA profiling algorithm are illustrated as follows:

As shown in above diagram, a single strand of a duplex nucleotide sequence is taken as the input for the algorithm. The first step of the algorithm is making three identical copies of the sequence, which will then be scanned in parallel by three identical GMS scanning machines which will produce a set of high dimensional vectors. As described in a previous node, the scanning machine works like the ribosomal machinery: just instead of proteins it produces high dimensional vectors. As indicated in the diagram, a scanning machine in our algorithm is configured by three parameters: the scanning size K; the moving step size r; and the affinity decay speed λ.

Then, as the third step, the affinity embedding algorithm will be applied to the high dimensional vectors to produce a 3D dotted plot. That resulting map will usually contain three clusters corresponding to the three duplicated sequences; and the middle cluster is usually pressed to a quasi 2-dimensional disk. So, as the last step, the middle slice of the 3D map will be extracted, rotated and displayed as a 2D map.

In general to qualify as a DNA profiling method, a method should ideally satisfy the following the following requirements:
  1. The same sequence or similar sequence should result in similar maps.
  2. Significant changes in a sequence should lead to noticeably changes in result maps. 
  3. The resulting maps should have structures that can identified by visual examination.
  4. Be able to associate phenotype traits with geometrical patterns on the result maps.
As first example I applied the above algorithm to the VP24 gene of  zarie ebola virus that consists of  1633 base pairs. The following pictures show 2 maps created by running the algorithm twice with different random initializations:

We can see that above two pictures are very similar in terms of topological features of the curves. The following picture shows two maps of the BRAC1 gene that contains 4875 base pairs. Again, these two maps are topologically quite similar up to fine details.

As next example we consider how GMS map changes when we delete, duplicate, or invert a segment of the nucleotide sequence. For this example exons of the gene CD4 has been chosen as input. This sequence has 1377 base pairs. I randomly selected a segment of  70 base pairs as a reference segment for deletion, duplication and inversion. The following pictures show the GMS maps of this sequence and the sequence under deletion, duplication and inversion:

In the above picture, the highlighted region correspond to the reference segment under alterations. We can clearly see how these three types of alterations manifested themselves in their GMS maps.

Above examples seem to indicate that our algorithm satisfies, more or less, the first 3 requirements listed above; whereas the last requirement remains open for the future study. Since a geometrical model can capture much larger amount of information than conventional statistics/correlations, one might hope some interesting phenotype traits may manifest themselves in those models in a yet-to-find way.