SVEngine: An efficient and versatile simulator of genome structural variations with features of cancer clonal evolution

Li Charlie Xia, Dongmei Ai, Hojoon Lee, Noemi Andor, Chao Li, Nancy R. Zhang, Hanlee P. Ji

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background: Simulating genome sequence data with variant features facilitates the development and benchmarking of structural variant analysis programs. However, there are only a few data simulators that provide structural variants in silico and even fewer that provide variants with different allelic fraction and haplotypes. Findings: We developed SVEngine, an open-source tool to address this need. SVEngine simulates next-generation sequencing data with embedded structural variations. As input, SVEngine takes template haploid sequences (FASTA) and an external variant file, a variant distribution file, and/or a clonal phylogeny tree file (NEWICK) as input. Subsequently, it simulates and outputs sequence contigs (FASTAs), sequence reads (FASTQs), and/or post-alignment files (BAMs). All of the files contain the desired variants, along with BED files containing the ground truth. SVEngine’s flexible design process enables one to specify size, position, and allelic fraction for deletions, insertions, duplications, inversions, and translocations. Finally, SVEngine simulates sequence data that replicate the characteristics of a sequencing library with mixed sizes of DNA insert molecules. To improve the compute speed, SVEngine is highly parallelized to reduce the simulation time. Conclusions: We demonstrated the versatile features of SVEngine and its improved runtime comparisons with other available simulators. SVEngine’s features include the simulation of locus-specific variant frequency designed to mimic the phylogeny of cancer clonal evolution. We validated SVEngine’s accuracy by simulating genome-wide structural variants of NA12878 and a heterogeneous cancer genome. Our evaluation included checking various sequencing mapping features such as coverage change, read clipping, insert size shift, and neighboring hanging read pairs for representative variant types. Structural variant callers Lumpy and Manta and tumor heterogeneity estimator THetA2 were able to perform realistically on the simulated data. SVEngine is implemented as a standard Python package and is freely available for academic use .

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbergiy081
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Cancer clonal evolution
  • Locus-specific allele frequency
  • Next-generation sequencing
  • Sequence analysis
  • Somatic haplotypes
  • Structural variation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics
  • Computer Science Applications


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