GPU Accelerated Sequence Alignment with Trace-back for GATK HaplotypeCaller

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Background: Pairwise sequence alignment is widely used in many biological tools and applications. Existing GPU accelerated implementations mainly focus on calculating optimal alignment score and omit identifying the optimal alignment itself. In GATK HaplotypeCaller (HC), the semi-global pairwise sequence alignment with traceback has so far
been difficult to accelerate effectively on GPUs.
Results: We first analyze the characteristics of the semi-global alignment with traceback in GATK HC and then propose a new algorithm that allows for retrieving the optimal alignment efficiently on GPUs. For the first stage, we choose intra-task parallelization model to calculate the position of the optimal alignment score and the backtracking matrix. Moreover, in the first stage, our GPU implementation also records the length of consecutive matches/mismatches in
addition to lengths of consecutive insertions and deletions as in the CPU-based implementation. This helps efficiently
retrieve the backtracking matrix to obtain the optimal alignment in the second stage.
Conclusions: Experimental results show that our alignment kernel with traceback is up to 80x and 14.14x faster than its CPU counterpart with synthetic datasets and real datasets, respectively. When integrated into GATK HC (alongside a GPU accelerated pair-HMMs forward kernel), the overall acceleration is 2.3x faster than the baseline GATK HC
implementation, and 1.34x faster than the GATK HC implementation with the integrated GPU-based pair-HMMs forward algorithm. Although the methods proposed in this paper is to improve the performance of GATK HC, they can also be used in other pairwise alignments and applications.
Original languageEnglish
Article number184
Pages (from-to)103-116
JournalBMC Genomics
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • GATK HaplotypeCaller (HC)
  • GPUs
  • Optimal alignment
  • Semi-global alignment with traceback


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