Breton G, Johansson ACV, Sjödin P, Schlebusch CM, Jakobsson M
BMC Bioinformatics 22 (1) 488 [2021-10-09; online 2021-10-09]
Population genetic studies of humans make increasing use of high-throughput sequencing in order to capture diversity in an unbiased way. There is an abundance of sequencing technologies, bioinformatic tools and the available genomes are increasing in number. Studies have evaluated and compared some of these technologies and tools, such as the Genome Analysis Toolkit (GATK) and its "Best Practices" bioinformatic pipelines. However, studies often focus on a few genomes of Eurasian origin in order to detect technical issues. We instead surveyed the use of the GATK tools and established a pipeline for processing high coverage full genomes from a diverse set of populations, including Sub-Saharan African groups, in order to reveal challenges from human diversity and stratification. We surveyed 29 studies using high-throughput sequencing data, and compared their strategies for data pre-processing and variant calling. We found that processing of data is very variable across studies and that the GATK "Best Practices" are seldom followed strictly. We then compared three versions of a GATK pipeline, differing in the inclusion of an indel realignment step and with a modification of the base quality score recalibration step. We applied the pipelines on a diverse set of 28 individuals. We compared the pipelines in terms of count of called variants and overlap of the callsets. We found that the pipelines resulted in similar callsets, in particular after callset filtering. We also ran one of the pipelines on a larger dataset of 179 individuals. We noted that including more individuals at the joint genotyping step resulted in different counts of variants. At the individual level, we observed that the average genome coverage was correlated to the number of variants called. We conclude that applying the GATK "Best Practices" pipeline, including their recommended reference datasets, to underrepresented populations does not lead to a decrease in the number of called variants compared to alternative pipelines. We recommend to aim for coverage of > 30X if identifying most variants is important, and to work with large sample sizes at the variant calling stage, also for underrepresented individuals and populations.