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In this page, we describe the command lines and steps to generate the results of the AstaFunk paper.


Assemblies and gene annotation files 

The gene annotation files were downloaded using the UCSC Table Browser ( The 2nd column has the links to download the genome assemblies from UCSC Genome Browser (

SpecieAssembly (and link to download)GroupTrackTableDescriptionUpdate
C. elegansWS190/ce6  Gene and Gene PredictionsWormbase GenessangerGene

Sanger Gene predictions from the Wormbase version WS190 files downloaded from the Sanger Institute FTP site.

sangerGeneToWBGeneIDFile with gene Id's from Wormbase Genes Track from UCSC and the respective gene Id's from Wormbase. Download here: ce6_sanger_wormbase_map.txt2008-06-04
D. melanogasterBDGP R5/dm3 Gene and Gene PredictionsFlybase GenesflyBaseGene

Protein-coding genes annotated by FlyBase and the Drosophila Heterochromatin Genome Project (DHGP). Annotations on both heterochromatin and euchromatic
sequences were downloaded from FlyBase D. melanogaster version 5.12.

flyBase2004xrefFile with gene Id's from Flybase Genes Track from UCSC and the respective gene Id's from Flybase. Download here: dm3_bdgp_flybase_map.txt2008-10-21
H. sapiens



Gene and Gene PredictionsRefSeq genesrefGene

Known human protein-coding and non-protein-coding genes taken from the NCBI RNA reference sequences collection (RefSeq)

Gene and Gene PredictionsUCSC genesknownGene

Set of gene predictions based on data from RefSeq, GenBank, CCDS, Rfam, and the tRNA Genes track.

Gene and Gene PredictionsGENCODE Genes V19Comprehensive (wgEncodeGencodeCompV19)

High-quality manual annotations merged with evidence-based automated annotations across the entire human genome generated by the GENCODE project. The GENCODE gene set presents a full merge between HAVANA manual annotation process and Ensembl automatic annotation pipeline.


Table S1 - Zinc Finger (ZnF) proteins 

Gene ID

Transcript Accession Number

(Ensembl release 87)

Hs.133034 (ZFP69B)
EZFIT (ZNF71)ENST00000328070.10Link

Pfam database


HMMER (hmmsearch) is used to create reference domain files.

Identification of events affecting only CDS regions

To obtain AStalavista events only for coding sequence structures, the gene annotation must be pre-processed:

~$ cat ce6_original.gtf | awk -v FS="\t" -v OFS="\t" '{if($3=="CDS") {print $0; $3="exon"; print $0}}' > ce6.gtf

This command line creates a GTF file with the same CDS entries from the original file, but duplicating the theses entries changing the feature column CDS to EXON, preserving the remaining fields.

Create reference transcript multi-fasta files of AS and non-AS genes

Create a multi-fasta of sequences of the reference transcript of each alternatively spliced gene, i.e. the AS transcript with the longest coding sequence and the respective transcript of non-AS genes.


astalavista -t astafunk --tref --genome ~/genome/worm/ce6/ --gtf ~/genome/worm/ce6/annotation/ce6.gtf > ce6_ref_transcripts.fa
astalavista -t astafunk --tref --genome ~/genome/fly/dm3/ --gtf ~/genome/fly/dm3/annotation/dm3.gtf > dm3_ref_transcripts.fa
astalavista -t astafunk --tref --genome ~/genome/human/hg19/ --gtf ~/genome/human/hg19/annotation/refseq.gtf > refseq_ref_transcripts.fa
astalavista -t astafunk --tref --genome ~/genome/human/hg19/ --gtf ~/genome/human/hg19/annotation/ucsc.gtf > ucsc_ref_transcripts.fa
astalavista -t astafunk --tref --genome ~/genome/human/hg19/ --gtf ~/genome/human/hg19/annotation/gencode.gtf > gencode_ref_transcripts.fa



Create reference domain files


hmmsearch --cut_ga --domtblout ce6_ref_domains.txt Pfam-A.hmm ce6_ref_transcripts.fa
hmmsearch --cut_ga --domtblout dm3_ref_domains.txt Pfam-A.hmm dm3_ref_transcripts.fa
hmmsearch --cut_ga --domtblout refseq_ref_domains.txt Pfam-A.hmm refseq_ref_transcripts.fa
hmmsearch --cut_ga --domtblout ucsc_ref_domains.txt Pfam-A.hmm ucsc_ref_transcripts.fa

hmmsearch --cut_ga --domtblout gencode_ref_domains.txt Pfam-A.hmm gencode_ref_transcripts.fa



Tip #1: Save memory/time creating a reduced HMM database

Instead to use the whole Pfam-A.hmm database to search protein domains, you can fetch only HMM models for a specific reference domain file:

~$ grep -v "#" refseq_ref_domains.txt | awk '{print $5}' | sort | uniq | hmmfetch -f Pfam-A.hmm - > as_refseq.hmm

The resulting HMM database is specific for the (AS, alternatively spliced) reference transcripts of RefSeq annotation.



Search alternatively spliced (AS) domains of AS genes

astalavista -t astafunk --cpu 20 --genome ~/genome/worm/ce6/ --gtf ~/genome/worm/ce6/annotation/ce6.gtf --hmm Pfam-A.hmm --reference ce6_ref_domains.txt > as_ce6.output
astalavista -t astafunk --cpu 20 --genome ~/genome/fly/dm3/ --gtf ~/genome/fly/dm3/annotation/dm3.gtf --hmm Pfam-A.hmm --reference dm3_ref_domains.txt > as_dm3.output
astalavista -t astafunk --cpu 20 --genome ~/genome/human/hg19/ --gtf ~/genome/human/hg19/annotation/refseq.gtf --hmm Pfam-A.hmm --reference refseq_ref_domains.txt > as_refseq.output
astalavista -t astafunk --cpu 20 --genome ~/genome/human/hg19/ --gtf ~/genome/human/hg19/annotation/ucsc.gtf --hmm Pfam-A.hmm --reference ucsc_ref_domains.txt > as_ucsc.output

astalavista -t astafunk --cpu 20 --genome ~/genome/human/hg19/ --gtf ~/genome/human/hg19/annotation/gencode.gtf --hmm Pfam-A.hmm --reference gencode_ref_domains.txt > as_gencode.output

Näive approach: search alternatively spliced (AS) domains

The Näive approach to search AS domains consists of scanning the whole coding sequence of the alternative transcripts. Differently, AstaFunk approach only scans the coding sequence regions flanking the alternative splicing events, extending the begin and end position of the events by a specific window Δπ for each HMM  π from Pfam-A.hmm.

astalavista -t astafunk --naive --cpu 20 --genome ~/genome/worm/ce6/ --gtf ~/genome/worm/ce6/annotation/ce6.gtf --hmm Pfam-A.hmm --reference ce6_ref_domains.txt
astalavista -t astafunk --naive --cpu 20 --genome ~/genome/fly/dm3/ --gtf ~/genome/fly/dm3/annotation/dm3.gtf --hmm Pfam-A.hmm --reference dm3_ref_domains.txt
astalavista -t astafunk --naive --cpu 20 --genome ~/genome/human/hg19/ --gtf ~/genome/human/hg19/annotation/refseq.gtf --hmm Pfam-A.hmm --reference refseq_ref_domains.txt
astalavista -t astafunk --naive --cpu 20 --genome ~/genome/human/hg19/ --gtf ~/genome/human/hg19/annotation/ucsc.gtf --hmm Pfam-A.hmm --reference ucsc_ref_domains.txt

astalavista -t astafunk --naive --cpu 20 --genome ~/genome/human/hg19/ --gtf ~/genome/human/hg19/annotation/gencode.gtf --hmm Pfam-A.hmm --reference gencode_ref_domains.txt

Comparison of domains predictions in proteins of the ZnF family (AstaFunk and HMMER)

Search domains on ZnF Protein Sequences using HMMER
hmmsearch --cut_ga --domtblout znf_genes_hmmer_output database.hmm znf_genes.fa
Search domains on ZnF Protein Sequences using AstaFunk (temporary option --test to reproduce results of the paper)
astalavista -t astafunk --test --local --fa znf_genes.fa --hmm database.hmm > znf_predictions_astafunk



GTEx Analysis (v6) Case Study


Transcript annotation (GTF)


GENCODE annotation
Exon read count


Read counts for each exon across samples
Genome assemblyGRCh37/hg19H. sapiens genome assembly
Pfam domains v28Pfam-A.hmm
GTEx Samples and Tissuessamples_tissuesTab-separated file with GTEx samples and respective tissue.Download
Obtain GTF annotation of the target genes
~$: zcat ../gencode.v19.transcripts.patched_contigs.gtf.gz | grep 'ENSG00000075415.\|ENSG00000066405.\|ENSG00000078328.' > target_genes.gtf
Obtain reference transcripts of the target genes
~$: astalavista-4.0.1-SNAPSHOT/bin/astalavista -t astafunk --tref --genome ./ target_genes.gtf > ref_txs.fa
  • The current directory ("./") contains FASTA files for each hg19 chromosome.


Create reference domain file (target_ref_domains.txt))
~$:  hmmsearch --cut_ga --domtblout target_ref_domains.txt Pfam-A.hmm ref_txs.fa
Search alternatively spliced domains
~$: astalavista-4.0.1-SNAPSHOT/bin/astalavista -t astafunk --genome ./ --gtf target_genes.gtf --hmm Pfam-A.hmm --local --reference target_ref_domains.txt > as_domains_target.txt
Calculate mean exon count per tissue
 ~$: ./ samples_tissue GTEx_Analysis_v6_RNA-seq_RNA-SeQCv1.1.8_exon_reads.txt Script to calculate mean exon count per tissue
cat $SAMPLES_TISSUE | awk -v FS="\t" -v q="'" '{str=str"s/"$1"/"$3"/g;"} END {print str}' > sed_command
sed -f sed_command $TX_RPKM | awk -v FS="\t" -v OFS="\t" '{
        header = "transcript_id"
            sum[headers[i]] = 0;
            num_samples[headers[i]] = 0;
        for (i in sum){
        print header
            sum[headers[i]]+= $i
            num_samples[headers[i]] = num_samples[headers[i]] + 1
        curr_line = $1
        for(i in sum){
            num_samples[i] = 0
        print curr_line

AS impact and Domain Conservation

Domain clusters are predictions of the same domain that overlap in their genomic coordinates. We assumed the highest scoring prediction to represent the wild-type of the domain in the gene. We then computed for each alternative prediction of  the domain in a cluster the "domain conservation" as the fraction between the domain score assigned to the alternatively spliced domain and the wild-type score. File output.txt is  output file of the default run of AstaFunk. Each line is a domain prediction. Using awk, we create a hash data structure where the key is the fields (columns of output.txt) $2 (loci id, e.g., gene id; list of transcripts overlapping the loci, etc), $3 (domain cluster) $5 (domain id) and $15 (domain profile length). The stored value of this data structure is the "domain conservation",. This command prints out the domain name, length and domain conservation for each cluster


~$ cat output.txt | grep -v "NO_HIT\|NO_CDS" | awk -v FS="\t" 'NR>1{cluster[$2"_"$3"_"$5"_"$15]=cluster[$2"_"$3"_"$5"_"$15]" "$6}END{for(i in cluster){split(cluster[i],scores," ");max = 0;for(j in scores){if(scores[j] > max)max=scores[j]}split(i,key,"_");for(j in scores){if(scores[j]!=max)print key[3],key[4],scores[j]/max;}}}'
  • Fields (columns of output.txt) $2 (loci id, e.g., gene id; list of transcripts overlapping the loci, etc), $3 (domain cluster) $5 (domain id) and $15 (domain profile length).

Generic Pipeline

Generic pipeline to search alternatively spliced domainsDownload
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