Multiz Alignments Multiz Align Track Settings
Multiz Alignments of 30 Vertebrates

Display mode:      

Species selection:  + - default

  Glires  + -

guinea pig

  Primates  + -


  Placental Mammal  + -

tree shrew

  Vertebrate  + -

x. tropicalis

Multiple alignment base-level:
Display bases identical to reference as dots
Display chains between alignments

Codon Translation:
Default species to establish reading frame:
No codon translation
Use default species reading frames for translation
Use reading frames for species if available, otherwise no translation
Use reading frames for species if available, otherwise use default species
View table schema
Data last updated at UCSC: 2007-11-02


This track shows multiple alignments of 30 vertebrate species and three measures of evolutionary conservation -- conservation across all 30 species, an alternative measurement restricted to the euarchontoglires subset (10 species plus mouse) of the alignment, and a measurement restricted to the placental mammal subset (19 species plus mouse) of the alignment. These three measurements produce the same results in regions where only euarchontoglires appear in the alignment. For other regions, the non-euarchontoglires species can either boost the scores (if conserved) or decrease them (if non-conserved). The placental mammal conservation helps to identify sequences that are under different evolutionary pressures in mammals and non-mammal vertebrates.

  • Euarchontoglire subset: mouse(mm9), rat(rn4), Guinea Pig(cavPor2), Rabbit(oryCun1), Human(hg18), Chimp(panTro2), Orangutan(ponAbe2), Rhesus(rheMac2), Marmoset(calJac1), Bushbaby(otoGar1), Tree Shrew(tupBel1)
  • Placental mammal subset: the euarchontoglires above plus: Shrew(sorAra1), Hedgehog(eriEur1), Dog(canFam2), Cat(felCat3), Horse(equCab1), Cow(bosTau3), Armadillo(dasNov1), Elephant(loxAfr1), Tenrec(echTel1)
  • Vertebrates: the placentals and euarchontoglires above plus: Opossum(monDom4), Platypus(ornAna1), Chicken(galGal3), Lizard(anoCar1), Frog(xenTro2), Tetraodon(tetNig1), Fugu(fr2), Stickleback(gasAcu1), Medaka(oryLat1), Zebrafish(danRer5)

The multiple alignments were generated using multiz and other tools in the UCSC/Penn State Bioinformatics comparative genomics alignment pipeline. The conservation measurements were created using the phastCons package from Adam Siepel at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

Details of the alignment parameters are noted in the genomewiki Mm9 multiple alignment page.

The species aligned for this track include the reptile, amphibian, bird, and fish clades, as well as marsupial, monotreme (platypus), and placental mammals. Compared to the previous 17-vertebrate alignment, this track includes 13 new species and 4 species with updated sequence assemblies (Table 1). The new species consist of seven high-coverage (5-8.5X) assemblies (orangutan, marmoset, horse, platypus, lizard, and two teleost fish: stickleback and medaka) and six low-coverage (2X) genome assemblies from mammalian species selected for sampling by NHGRI (bushbaby, tree shrew, guinea pig, hedgehog, common shrew, and cat). The cow, chicken, fugu, and zebrafish assemblies in this track have been updated from those used in the previous 17-species alignment.

UCSC has repeatmasked and aligned the low-coverage genome assemblies, and provides the sequence for download; however, we do not construct genome browsers for them. Missing sequence in the low-coverage assemblies is highlighted in the track display by regions of yellow when zoomed out and Ns displayed at base level (see Gap Annotation, below).

OrganismSpeciesRelease dateUCSC version
MouseMus musculus Jul 2007 mm9
ArmadilloDasypus novemcinctusMay 2005 dasNov1
BushbabyOtolemur garnettiDec 2006 otoGar1
CatFelis catus Mar 2006 felCat3
ChickenGallus gallus May 2006 galGal3
ChimpanzeePan troglodytes Mar 2006 panTro2
CowBos taurus Aug 2006 bosTau3
DogCanis familiaris May 2005 canFam2
ElephantLoxodonta africanaMay 2005 loxAfr1
FrogXenopus tropicalis Aug 2005 xenTro2
FuguTakifugu rubripes Oct 2004 fr2
Guinea pigCavia porcellusOct 2005 cavPor2
HedgehogErinaceus europaeusJune 2006 eriEur1
HorseEquus caballus Jan 2007 equCab1
HumanHomo sapiens Mar 2006 hg18
LizardAnolis carolinensis Feb 2007 anoCar1
MarmosetCallithrix jacchusJune 2007 calJac1
MedakaOryzias latipes Apr 2006oryLat1
OpossumMonodelphis domestica Jan 2006 monDom4
OrangutanPongo pygmaeus abelii July 2007ponAbe2
PlatypusOrnithorhychus anatinus Mar 2007 ornAna1
RabbitOryctolagus cuniculusMay 2005 oryCun1
RatRattus norvegicus Nov 2004 rn4
RhesusMacaca mulatta Jan 2006 rheMac2
ShrewSorex araneusJune 2006 sorAra1
SticklebackGasterosteus aculeatus Feb 2006 gasAcu1
TenrecEchinops telfairiJuly 2005 echTel1
TetraodonTetraodon nigroviridis Feb 2004 tetNig1
Tree shrewTupaia belangeriDec 2006 tupBel1
ZebrafishDanio rerio July 2007 danRer5

Table 1. Genome assemblies included in the 30-way Conservation track.

Display Conventions and Configuration

The track configuration options allow the user to display either the vertebrate or placental mammal conservation scores, or both simultaneously. In full and pack display modes, conservation scores are displayed as a wiggle track (histogram) in which the height reflects the size of the score. The conservation wiggles can be configured in a variety of ways to highlight different aspects of the displayed information. Click the Graph configuration help link for an explanation of the configuration options.

Pairwise alignments of each species to the mouse genome are displayed below the conservation histogram as a grayscale density plot (in pack mode) or as a wiggle (in full mode) that indicates alignment quality. In dense display mode, conservation is shown in grayscale using darker values to indicate higher levels of overall conservation as scored by phastCons.

Checkboxes on the track configuration page allow selection of the species to include in the pairwise display. Configuration buttons are available to select all of the species (Set all), deselect all of the species (Clear all), or use the default settings (Set defaults). By default, the following 8 species are included in the pairwise display: rat, human, orangutan, dog, horse, opossum, chicken, and stickleback. Note that excluding species from the pairwise display does not alter the the conservation score display.

To view detailed information about the alignments at a specific position, zoom the display in to 30,000 or fewer bases, then click on the alignment.

Gap Annotation

The Display chains between alignments configuration option enables display of gaps between alignment blocks in the pairwise alignments in a manner similar to the Chain track display. The following conventions are used:

  • Single line: no bases in the aligned species. Possibly due to a lineage-specific insertion between the aligned blocks in the mouse genome or a lineage-specific deletion between the aligned blocks in the aligning species.
  • Double line: aligning species has one or more unalignable bases in the gap region. Possibly due to excessive evolutionary distance between species or independent indels in the region between the aligned blocks in both species.
  • Pale yellow coloring: aligning species has Ns in the gap region. Reflects uncertainty in the relationship between the DNA of both species, due to lack of sequence in relevant portions of the aligning species.

Genomic Breaks

Discontinuities in the genomic context (chromosome, scaffold or region) of the aligned DNA in the aligning species are shown as follows:

  • Vertical blue bar: represents a discontinuity that persists indefinitely on either side, e.g. a large region of DNA on either side of the bar comes from a different chromosome in the aligned species due to a large scale rearrangement.
  • Green square brackets: enclose shorter alignments consisting of DNA from one genomic context in the aligned species nested inside a larger chain of alignments from a different genomic context. The alignment within the brackets may represent a short misalignment, a lineage-specific insertion of a transposon in the mouse genome that aligns to a paralogous copy somewhere else in the aligned species, or other similar occurrence.

Base Level

When zoomed-in to the base-level display, the track shows the base composition of each alignment. The numbers and symbols on the Gaps line indicate the lengths of gaps in the mouse sequence at those alignment positions relative to the longest non-mouse sequence. If there is sufficient space in the display, the size of the gap is shown. If the space is insufficient and the gap size is a multiple of 3, a "*" is displayed; other gap sizes are indicated by "+".

Codon translation is available in base-level display mode if the displayed region is identified as a coding segment. To display this annotation, select the species for translation from the pull-down menu in the Codon Translation configuration section at the top of the page. Then, select one of the following modes:

  • No codon translation: the gene annotation is not used; the bases are displayed without translation.
  • Use default species reading frames for translation: the annotations from the genome displayed in the Default species for translation; pull-down menu are used to translate all the aligned species present in the alignment.
  • Use reading frames for species if available, otherwise no translation: codon translation is performed only for those species where the region is annotated as protein coding.
  • Use reading frames for species if available, otherwise use default species: codon translation is done on those species that are annotated as being protein coding over the aligned region using species-specific annotation; the remaining species are translated using the default species annotation.

Codon translation uses the following gene tracks as the basis for translation, depending on the species chosen (Table 2). Species listed in the row labeled "None" do not have species-specific reading frames for gene translation.

Gene TrackSpecies
Known Geneshuman, mouse
Ensembl Genesrat, rhesus, chimp, dog, opossum, platypus, zebrafish, fugu, stickleback, medaka
RefSeq Genescow, frog
mRNAsorangutan, elephant, rabbit, cat, horse, chicken, lizard, armadillo, tetraodon
Nonemarmoset, bushbaby, tree shrew, guinea pig, shrew, hedgehog, tenrec
Table 2. Gene tracks used for codon translation.


Pairwise alignments with the mouse genome were generated for each species using blastz from repeat-masked genomic sequence. Lineage-specific repeats were removed prior to alignment, then reinserted. Pairwise alignments were then linked into chains using a dynamic programming algorithm that finds maximally scoring chains of gapless subsections of the alignments organized in a kd-tree. The scoring matrix and parameters for pairwise alignment and chaining were tuned for each species based on phylogenetic distance from the reference. High-scoring chains were then placed along the genome, with gaps filled by lower-scoring chains, to produce an alignment net. For more information about the chaining and netting process and parameters for each species, see the description pages for the Chain and Net tracks.

An additional filtering step was introduced in the generation of the 30-way conservation track to reduce the number of paralogs and pseudogenes from the high-quality assemblies and the suspect alignments from the low-quality assemblies: the pairwise alignments of high-quality mammalian sequences (placental and marsupial) were filtered based on synteny; those for 2X mammalian genomes were filtered to retain only alignments of best quality in both the target and query ("reciprocal best").

The resulting best-in-genome pairwise alignments were progressively aligned using multiz/autoMZ, following the tree topology diagrammed above, to produce multiple alignments. The multiple alignments were post-processed to add annotations indicating alignment gaps, genomic breaks, and base quality of the component sequences. The annotated multiple alignments, in MAF format, are available for bulk download. An alignment summary table containing an entry for each alignment block in each species was generated to improve track display performance at large scales. Framing tables were constructed to enable visualization of codons in the multiple alignment display.

Conservation scoring was performed using the PhastCons package (A. Siepel), which computes conservation based on a two-state phylogenetic hidden Markov model (HMM). PhastCons measurements rely on a tree model containing the tree topology, branch lengths representing evolutionary distance at neutrally evolving sites, the background distribution of nucleotides, and a substitution rate matrix. The vertebrate tree model for this track was generated using the phyloFit program from the phastCons package (REV model, EM algorithm, medium precision) using multiple alignments of 4-fold degenerate sites extracted from the 30way alignment (msa_view). The 4d sites were derived from the Oct 2005 Gencode Reference Gene set, which was filtered to select single-coverage long transcripts. A second, mammalian tree model including only placental mammals was used to generate the placental mammal conservation scoring. The phastCons parameters were tuned to produce 5% conserved elements in the genome for the vertebrate conservation measurement. This parameter set (expected-length=45, target-coverage=.3, rho=.31) was then used to generate the placental mammal conservation scoring.

The phastCons program computes conservation scores based on a phylo-HMM, a type of probabilistic model that describes both the process of DNA substitution at each site in a genome and the way this process changes from one site to the next (Felsenstein and Churchill 1996, Yang 1995, Siepel and Haussler 2005). PhastCons uses a two-state phylo-HMM, with a state for conserved regions and a state for non-conserved regions. The value plotted at each site is the posterior probability that the corresponding alignment column was "generated" by the conserved state of the phylo-HMM. These scores reflect the phylogeny (including branch lengths) of the species in question, a continuous-time Markov model of the nucleotide substitution process, and a tendency for conservation levels to be autocorrelated along the genome (i.e., to be similar at adjacent sites). The general reversible (REV) substitution model was used. Unlike many conservation-scoring programs, note that phastCons does not rely on a sliding window of fixed size; therefore, short highly-conserved regions and long moderately conserved regions can both obtain high scores. More information about phastCons can be found in Siepel et al. 2005.

PhastCons currently treats alignment gaps as missing data, which sometimes has the effect of producing undesirably high conservation scores in gappy regions of the alignment. We are looking at several possible ways of improving the handling of alignment gaps.


This track was created using the following programs:

  • Alignment tools: blastz and multiz by Minmei Hou, Scott Schwartz and Webb Miller of the Penn State Bioinformatics Group
  • Chaining and Netting: axtChain, chainNet by Jim Kent at UCSC
  • Conservation scoring: PhastCons, phyloFit, tree_doctor, msa_view by Adam Siepel while at UCSC, now at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
  • MAF Annotation tools: mafAddIRows by Brian Raney, UCSC; mafAddQRows by Richard Burhans, Penn State; genePredToMafFrames by Mark Diekhans, UCSC
  • Tree image generator: phyloPng by Galt Barber, UCSC
  • Conservation track display: Kate Rosenbloom, Hiram Clawson (wiggle display), and Brian Raney (gap annotation and codon framing) at UCSC

The phylogenetic tree is based on Murphy et al. (2001) and general consensus in the vertebrate phylogeny community as of March 2007.


Phylo-HMMs and phastCons:

Felsenstein J, Churchill GA. A Hidden Markov Model approach to variation among sites in rate of evolution. Mol Biol Evol. 1996 Jan;13(1):93-104. PMID: 8583911

Siepel A, Bejerano G, Pedersen JS, Hinrichs AS, Hou M, Rosenbloom K, Clawson H, Spieth J, Hillier LW, Richards S, et al. Evolutionarily conserved elements in vertebrate, insect, worm, and yeast genomes. Genome Res. 2005 Aug;15(8):1034-50. PMID: 16024819; PMC: PMC1182216

Siepel A, Haussler D. Phylogenetic Hidden Markov Models. In: Nielsen R, editor. Statistical Methods in Molecular Evolution. New York: Springer; 2005. pp. 325-351.

Yang Z. A space-time process model for the evolution of DNA sequences. Genetics. 1995 Feb;139(2):993-1005. PMID: 7713447; PMC: PMC1206396


Kent WJ, Baertsch R, Hinrichs A, Miller W, Haussler D. Evolution's cauldron: duplication, deletion, and rearrangement in the mouse and human genomes. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2003 Sep 30;100(20):11484-9. PMID: 14500911; PMC: PMC208784


Blanchette M, Kent WJ, Riemer C, Elnitski L, Smit AF, Roskin KM, Baertsch R, Rosenbloom K, Clawson H, Green ED, et al. Aligning multiple genomic sequences with the threaded blockset aligner. Genome Res. 2004 Apr;14(4):708-15. PMID: 15060014; PMC: PMC383317


Chiaromonte F, Yap VB, Miller W. Scoring pairwise genomic sequence alignments. Pac Symp Biocomput. 2002:115-26. PMID: 11928468

Schwartz S, Kent WJ, Smit A, Zhang Z, Baertsch R, Hardison RC, Haussler D, Miller W. Human-mouse alignments with BLASTZ. Genome Res. 2003 Jan;13(1):103-7. PMID: 12529312; PMC: PMC430961

Phylogenetic Tree:

Murphy WJ, Eizirik E, O'Brien SJ, Madsen O, Scally M, Douady CJ, Teeling E, Ryder OA, Stanhope MJ, de Jong WW, Springer MS. Resolution of the early placental mammal radiation using Bayesian phylogenetics. Science. 2001 Dec 14;294(5550):2348-51. PMID: 11743200