transIndel – indel detection from DNA and RNA sequencing data

Insertions and deletions (indels) are a major class of genomic variation associated with human disease. Indels are primarily detected from DNA sequencing (DNA-seq) data but their transcriptional consequences remain unexplored due to challenges in discriminating medium-sized and large indels from splicing events in RNA-seq data.

University of Minnesota researchers have developed transIndel, a splice-aware algorithm that parses the chimeric alignments predicted by a short read aligner and reconstructs the mid-sized insertions and large deletions based on the linear alignments of split reads from DNA-seq or RNA-seq data. TransIndel exhibits competitive or superior performance over eight state-of-the-art indel detection tools on benchmarks using both synthetic and real DNA-seq data. Additionally, the researchers applied transIndel to DNA-seq and RNA-seq datasets from 333 primary prostate cancer patients from The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) and 59 metastatic prostate cancer patients from AACR-PCF Stand-Up- To-Cancer (SU2C) studies. TransIndel enhanced the taxonomy of DNA- and RNA-level alterations in prostate cancer by identifying recurrent FOXA1 indels as well as exitron splicing in genes implicated in disease progression.

Conceptual overview of transIndel algorithm


Deletions and insertions are recovered from representative and alternative alignments of chimeric reads. Size of the indels are determined based on the difference of target offset and read length 

This study demonstrates that transIndel is a robust tool for elucidation of medium- and large-sized indels from DNA-seq and RNA-seq data. Including RNA-seq in indel discovery efforts leads to significant improvements in sensitivity for identification of med-sized and large indels missed by DNA-seq, and reveals non-canonical RNA-splicing events in genes associated with disease pathology.

Availability – TransIndel is implemented by Python. The source code is freely available at

Yang R, Van Etten JL, Dehm SM. (2018) Indel detection from DNA and RNA sequencing data with transIndel. BMC Genomics 19(1):270. [article]

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