The preferred file format for viewing alignments in IGV is the BAM format, a binary form of Sequence Alignment Format (SAM). Both BAM and SAM files are described on the Samtools project page http://samtools.sourceforge.net/. IGV requires that BAM files be indexed.
For large alignment files we recommend using the BAM format. However, SAM files can be used if the alignments are sorted by start position and indexed. The igvtools utility can be used to both sort and index the files. Alternatively, if the file is already sorted, an index will be automatically created upon first loading the file. IGV will attempt to store the index in the directory where the alignment file resides with an extension of ".sai". If that fails, the index is stored in the user's IGV directory.
To display the Alignments Preferences window, click View>Preferences, then click the Alignments tab. For more detailed information about each of the preference options in this window, see the Alignment Preferences information in the User Interface section of the User Guide.
IGV displays sequence alignment data in a separate Alignments panel. The display changes as you zoom in. When zoomed out, IGV displays only coverage data, when available (more detail below).
When zoomed in to the alignment read visibility threshold (by default, 30 KB), IGV shows the reads. At this resolution the colored bars in the coverage track identify loci where more than 20% of the quality weighted reads differ from the reference. For paired end alignments, reads that have a different than expected insert size are color coded to indicate the difference, and reads that have a mate on another chromosome are color coded to indicate the chromosome of the mate pair. (more detail below).
At higher resolutions read bases that do not match the reference are color coded, and insertions () and deletions relative to the reference become visible. By default, read bases that match are displayed in gray. To color code all bases, regardless of whether they are mismatched, right-click the track and select Show All Bases from the pop-up menu. In addition, mismatched bases are assigned a transparency value proportional to the read quality (phred) score. This has the effect of de-emphasizing low quality reads. Transparency shading can be turned off temporarily from the pop-up menu, or persistently from the Preferences window.
By default, when zoomed in sufficiently, IGV displays a line at the center of the display. At higher resolutions, the center line becomes two lines that frame the aligned bases at the center of the display, as shown in the figure above.
This option, along with many others, can be modified on the Alignments tab of the Preferences window.
Note that alignments that are displayed with light gray borders and white fill, as shown in the following screenshot, have a mapping quality equal to zero. This value (0) means the read could also be mapped to another location.
IGV provides several options for working with paired-end alignments:
Split screen views can be invoked on-the-fly from paired-end alignment tracks. Right-click over an alignment and select View mate region in split screen from the drop-down list. If the alignment clicked over does not have a mapped mate this option will be grayed out.
Return to Normal View
To return to the “normal view”, double-click the name panel at the top of one of the panes, or right-click in a name panel and select Switch to standard view.
NGS paired-end reads can be drawn as a single "template", with a connecting line joining the two pairs. To display this view, right-click over the alignments and select View as pairs. If the alignment track does not contain paired-end data this option will not be available.
In a gapped alignment, IGV indicates insertions with respect to the reference with a purple bar (). Hover over the insertion symbol to view the inserted bases.
In a gapped alignment, IGV indicates deletions with respect to the reference with a black bar.
Default Coverage Data
IGV supplements each alignment track with a coverage track. When IGV is zoomed in sufficiently to display alignments, the coverage track displays the depth of the reads displayed at each locus as a grey bar chart. If a nucleotide differs from the reference sequence in greater than 20% of quality weighted reads, IGV colors the bar in proportion to the read count of each base (A, C, G, T).
To hide the coverage track, clear the Show Coverage Track option on the Alignments tab of the Preferences window.
Extended Coverage Data
To display coverage data at the whole genome or chromosome level, use the igvtools package (count command) to generate coverage data for the alignments file. The resulting file can be associated with the alignment track by file naming convention, or loaded independently as a separate track.
To associate a coverage track using filename, the track must be named as follows, and placed in the same directory as the alignment track:
<alignment file name>.tdf
For example, the coverage track for test.bam would be named test.bam.tdf.
To dynamically associate coverage data with a BAM track, choose the "Load Coverage Data" from either the alignment or coverage track pop-up menu. When the alignment data is loaded with its matching coverage data, the coverage track displays data at all zoom levels.
Alignments can be sorted by start location, strand, nucleotide, mapping quality, sample, or read group.
To sort alignments:
Sorting rearranges rows so that alignments that intersect the center of the display appear in the order specified. This can cause the alignment layout away from the center line to appear sparse. To restore the layout to an optimally packed configuration, select Re-pack alignments from the pop-up menu.
IGV includes limited support for viewing alignments in the "sorted.txt" format from the Illumina Pipeline version 1.3, with the following restrictions.
Mapping File: To view alignments from a sorted.txt file in which the chromosome names are not chromosome names in IGV, a mapping file must be provided. This is a 2-column tab-delimited file with chromosome names from the sorted.txt file in column 1, and corresponding IGV chromosome names in column 2. The file must be named "sequence.map" and placed in a specific directory, which is platform dependent:
Windows: <user home>/igv/sam
On Windows computers the user home directory is normally found at:
C:/Documents and Settings/<user name>