Advanced: Decorating the example workflow#

Now that the basic concepts of Snakemake have been illustrated, we can introduce some advanced functionality.

Step 1: Specifying the number of used threads#

For some tools, it is advisable to use more than one thread in order to speed up the computation. Snakemake can be made aware of the threads a rule needs with the threads directive. In our example workflow, it makes sense to use multiple threads for the rule bwa_map:

rule bwa_map:
    input:
        "data/genome.fa",
        "data/samples/{sample}.fastq"
    output:
        "mapped_reads/{sample}.bam"
    threads: 8
    shell:
        "bwa mem -t {threads} {input} | samtools view -Sb - > {output}"

The number of threads can be propagated to the shell command with the familiar braces notation (i.e. {threads}). If no threads directive is given, a rule is assumed to need 1 thread.

When a workflow is executed, the number of threads the jobs need is considered by the Snakemake scheduler. In particular, the scheduler ensures that the sum of the threads of all jobs running at the same time does not exceed a given number of available CPU cores. This number is given with the --cores command line argument, which is mandatory for snakemake calls that actually run the workflow. For example

$ snakemake --cores 10

would execute the workflow with 10 cores. Since the rule bwa_map needs 8 threads, only one job of the rule can run at a time, and the Snakemake scheduler will try to saturate the remaining cores with other jobs like, e.g., samtools_sort. The threads directive in a rule is interpreted as a maximum: when less cores than threads are provided, the number of threads a rule uses will be reduced to the number of given cores.

If --cores is given without a number, all available cores are used.

Exercise#

  • With the flag --forceall you can enforce a complete re-execution of the workflow. Combine this flag with different values for --cores and examine how the scheduler selects jobs to run in parallel.

Step 2: Config files#

So far, we specified which samples to consider by providing a Python list in the Snakefile. However, often you want your workflow to be customizable, so that it can easily be adapted to new data. For this purpose, Snakemake provides a config file mechanism. Config files can be written in JSON or YAML, and are used with the configfile directive. In our example workflow, we add the line

configfile: "config.yaml"

to the top of the Snakefile. Snakemake will load the config file and store its contents into a globally available dictionary named config. In our case, it makes sense to specify the samples in config.yaml as

samples:
    A: data/samples/A.fastq
    B: data/samples/B.fastq

Now, we can remove the statement defining SAMPLES from the Snakefile and change the rule bcftools_call to

rule bcftools_call:
    input:
        fa="data/genome.fa",
        bam=expand("sorted_reads/{sample}.bam", sample=config["samples"]),
        bai=expand("sorted_reads/{sample}.bam.bai", sample=config["samples"])
    output:
        "calls/all.vcf"
    shell:
        "bcftools mpileup -f {input.fa} {input.bam} | "
        "bcftools call -mv - > {output}"

Step 3: Input functions#

Since we have stored the path to the FASTQ files in the config file, we can also generalize the rule bwa_map to use these paths. This case is different to the rule bcftools_call we modified above. To understand this, it is important to know that Snakemake workflows are executed in three phases.

  1. In the initialization phase, the files defining the workflow are parsed and all rules are instantiated.

  2. In the DAG phase, the directed acyclic dependency graph of all jobs is built by filling wildcards and matching input files to output files.

  3. In the scheduling phase, the DAG of jobs is executed, with jobs started according to the available resources.

The expand functions in the list of input files of the rule bcftools_call are executed during the initialization phase. In this phase, we don’t know about jobs, wildcard values and rule dependencies. Hence, we cannot determine the FASTQ paths for rule bwa_map from the config file in this phase, because we don’t even know which jobs will be generated from that rule. Instead, we need to defer the determination of input files to the DAG phase. This can be achieved by specifying an input function instead of a string as inside of the input directive. For the rule bwa_map this works as follows:

def get_bwa_map_input_fastqs(wildcards):
    return config["samples"][wildcards.sample]

rule bwa_map:
    input:
        "data/genome.fa",
        get_bwa_map_input_fastqs
    output:
        "mapped_reads/{sample}.bam"
    threads: 8
    shell:
        "bwa mem -t {threads} {input} | samtools view -Sb - > {output}"

Any normal function would work as well. Input functions take as single argument a wildcards object, that allows to access the wildcards values via attributes (here wildcards.sample). They have to return a string or a list of strings, that are interpreted as paths to input files (here, we return the path that is stored for the sample in the config file). Input functions are evaluated once the wildcard values of a job are determined.

Exercise#

  • In the data/samples folder, there is an additional sample C.fastq. Add that sample to the config file and see how Snakemake wants to recompute the part of the workflow belonging to the new sample, when invoking with snakemake -n --forcerun bcftools_call.

Step 4: Rule parameters#

Sometimes, shell commands are not only composed of input and output files and some static flags. In particular, it can happen that additional parameters need to be set depending on the wildcard values of the job. For this, Snakemake allows to define arbitrary parameters for rules with the params directive. In our workflow, it is reasonable to annotate aligned reads with so-called read groups, that contain metadata like the sample name. We modify the rule bwa_map accordingly:

rule bwa_map:
    input:
        "data/genome.fa",
        get_bwa_map_input_fastqs
    output:
        "mapped_reads/{sample}.bam"
    params:
        rg=r"@RG\tID:{sample}\tSM:{sample}"
    threads: 8
    shell:
        "bwa mem -R '{params.rg}' -t {threads} {input} | samtools view -Sb - > {output}"

Similar to input and output files, params can be accessed from the shell command, the Python based run block, or the script directive (see Step 6: Using custom scripts).

Exercise#

  • Variant calling can consider a lot of parameters. A particularly important one is the prior mutation rate (1e-3 per default). It is set via the flag -P of the bcftools call command. Consider making this flag configurable via adding a new key to the config file and using the params directive in the rule bcftools_call to propagate it to the shell command.

Step 5: Logging#

When executing a large workflow, it is usually desirable to store the logging output of each job into a separate file, instead of just printing all logging output to the terminal—when multiple jobs are run in parallel, this would result in chaotic output. For this purpose, Snakemake allows to specify log files for rules. Log files are defined via the log directive and handled similarly to output files, but they are not subject of rule matching and are not cleaned up when a job fails. We modify our rule bwa_map as follows:

rule bwa_map:
    input:
        "data/genome.fa",
        get_bwa_map_input_fastqs
    output:
        "mapped_reads/{sample}.bam"
    params:
        rg=r"@RG\tID:{sample}\tSM:{sample}"
    log:
        "logs/bwa_mem/{sample}.log"
    threads: 8
    shell:
        "(bwa mem -R '{params.rg}' -t {threads} {input} | "
        "samtools view -Sb - > {output}) 2> {log}"

The shell command is modified to collect STDERR output of both bwa and samtools and pipe it into the file referred to by {log}. Log files must contain exactly the same wildcards as the output files to avoid file name clashes between different jobs of the same rule.

Exercise#

  • Add a log directive to the bcftools_call rule as well.

  • Time to re-run the whole workflow (remember the command line flags to force re-execution). See how log files are created for variant calling and read mapping.

  • The ability to track the provenance of each generated result is an important step towards reproducible analyses. Apart from the report functionality discussed before, Snakemake can summarize various provenance information for all output files of the workflow. The flag --summary prints a table associating each output file with the rule used to generate it, the creation date and optionally the version of the tool used for creation is provided. Further, the table informs about updated input files and changes to the source code of the rule after creation of the output file. Invoke Snakemake with --summary to examine the information for our example.

Step 6: Temporary and protected files#

In our workflow, we create two BAM files for each sample, namely the output of the rules bwa_map and samtools_sort. When not dealing with examples, the underlying data is usually huge. Hence, the resulting BAM files need a lot of disk space and their creation takes some time. To save disk space, you can mark output files as temporary. Snakemake will delete the marked files for you, once all the consuming jobs (that need it as input) have been executed. We use this mechanism for the output file of the rule bwa_map:

rule bwa_map:
    input:
        "data/genome.fa",
        get_bwa_map_input_fastqs
    output:
        temp("mapped_reads/{sample}.bam")
    params:
        rg=r"@RG\tID:{sample}\tSM:{sample}"
    log:
        "logs/bwa_mem/{sample}.log"
    threads: 8
    shell:
        "(bwa mem -R '{params.rg}' -t {threads} {input} | "
        "samtools view -Sb - > {output}) 2> {log}"

This results in the deletion of the BAM file once the corresponding samtools_sort job has been executed. Since the creation of BAM files via read mapping and sorting is computationally expensive, it is reasonable to protect the final BAM file from accidental deletion or modification. We modify the rule samtools_sort to mark its output file as protected:

rule samtools_sort:
    input:
        "mapped_reads/{sample}.bam"
    output:
        protected("sorted_reads/{sample}.bam")
    shell:
        "samtools sort -T sorted_reads/{wildcards.sample} "
        "-O bam {input} > {output}"

After successful execution of the job, Snakemake will write-protect the output file in the filesystem, so that it can’t be overwritten or deleted by accident.

Exercise#

  • Re-execute the whole workflow and observe how Snakemake handles the temporary and protected files.

  • Run Snakemake with the target mapped_reads/A.bam. Although the file is marked as temporary, you will see that Snakemake does not delete it because it is specified as a target file.

  • Try to re-execute the whole workflow again with the dry-run option. You will see that it fails (as intended) because Snakemake cannot overwrite the protected output files.

Summary#

For this advanced part of the tutorial, we have now created a config.yaml configuration file:

samples:
    A: data/samples/A.fastq
    B: data/samples/B.fastq

prior_mutation_rate: 0.001

With this, the final version of our workflow in the Snakefile looks like this:

configfile: "config.yaml"


rule all:
    input:
        "plots/quals.svg"


def get_bwa_map_input_fastqs(wildcards):
    return config["samples"][wildcards.sample]


rule bwa_map:
    input:
        "data/genome.fa",
        get_bwa_map_input_fastqs
    output:
        temp("mapped_reads/{sample}.bam")
    params:
        rg=r"@RG\tID:{sample}\tSM:{sample}"
    log:
        "logs/bwa_mem/{sample}.log"
    threads: 8
    shell:
        "(bwa mem -R '{params.rg}' -t {threads} {input} | "
        "samtools view -Sb - > {output}) 2> {log}"


rule samtools_sort:
    input:
        "mapped_reads/{sample}.bam"
    output:
        protected("sorted_reads/{sample}.bam")
    shell:
        "samtools sort -T sorted_reads/{wildcards.sample} "
        "-O bam {input} > {output}"


rule samtools_index:
    input:
        "sorted_reads/{sample}.bam"
    output:
        "sorted_reads/{sample}.bam.bai"
    shell:
        "samtools index {input}"


rule bcftools_call:
    input:
        fa="data/genome.fa",
        bam=expand("sorted_reads/{sample}.bam", sample=config["samples"]),
        bai=expand("sorted_reads/{sample}.bam.bai", sample=config["samples"])
    output:
        "calls/all.vcf"
    params:
        rate=config["prior_mutation_rate"]
    log:
        "logs/bcftools_call/all.log"
    shell:
        "(bcftools mpileup -f {input.fa} {input.bam} | "
        "bcftools call -mv -P {params.rate} - > {output}) 2> {log}"


rule plot_quals:
    input:
        "calls/all.vcf"
    output:
        "plots/quals.svg"
    script:
        "scripts/plot-quals.py"