Use the latest version of Circos and read Circos best practices—these list recent important changes and identify sources of common problems.
If you are having trouble, post your issue to the Circos Google Group and include all files and detailed error logs. Please do not email me directly unless it is urgent—you are much more likely to receive a timely reply from the group.
Don't know what question to ask? Read Points of View: Visualizing Biological Data by Bang Wong, myself and invited authors from the Points of View series.
This tutorial will show you how to use Circos to create a diagram of a typical cell cycle (G1, S, G2, M) and annotate it with links and text.
The tutorial has two parts, which show two ways of organizing the cycle and phase axes. In the first part (this one), the each phase has its own axis. In Cell Cycle — Part 2, there is a single axis, which represents the full cycle and which is cropped into individual ideograms that each correspond to a phase. The two approaches differentiate themselves in how coordinates are defined (relative to phase or cycle).
There are four phases in the cell cycle: gap 1 (G1), synthesis (S), gap 2 (G2) and mitosis (M). There's also a senescence phase (gap 0, G0), into which the cell can pass to/from G1. I'll ignore G0 in this example.
The lengths of the phases vary. I have selected durations that mimic the cell cycle diagram on Wikipedia. These are approximately: G1 45%, S 35%, G2 15% and M 5%.
The first step is to define each of these phases as individual axes. Circos requires integer coordinates, so I've arbitrarily chosen to make each phase axis be 100 units long. The variety in axis lengths in the image will be accomplised by setting
# phases.txt chr - g1 g1 0 100 greys-4-seq-1 chr - s s 0 100 greys-4-seq-2 chr - g2 g2 0 100 greys-4-seq-3 chr - m m 0 100 greys-4-seq-4
Making each of the phase axis lengths equal greatly facilitates defining coordinates. For example, if you wish to place at 25% into phase G1, the coordiate is
g1 25 25.
I've used a grayscale palette for the phases. Using the Brewer grey 4-color sequential palette,
greys-4-seq, is helpful here. By making the phase segments grey, colors in other parts of the image will stand out better.
If you need to color code phases (e.g. you have other image elements that will inherit a phase's color), consider the spectral Brewer palette. You can always overwrite axis colors using
chromosomes_color = g1=spectral-7-seq-2,s=spectral-7-seq-3,g2=spectral-7-seq-6,m=spectral-7-seq-7
A useful shortcut is to store the palette name in one variable, and then use it in
palette = specral-7-seq chromosomes_color = g1=conf(palette)-2,s=conf(palette)-3,g2=conf(palette)-6,m=conf(palette)-7
You can make the definition clearer by adding a <phase> block in which the color indexes are defined. With this approach, the value of
chromosomes_color never needs to be adjusted. Instead, you change the palette name and color indexes in
palette parameter and <phases> block, which is less prone to error.
palette = spectral-7-div <phases> g1 = 2 s = 3 g2 = 6 m = 7 </phases> chromosomes_color = g1=conf(palette)-conf(phases,g1), s=conf(palette)-conf(phases,s), g2=conf(palette)-conf(phases,g2), m=conf(palette)-conf(phases,m)
There are several ways to organize the axis definition for the cell cycle diagram.
This is the most intuitive approach. Each phase has its own axis, with a unique name and coordinate. This is the way this tutorial is defined.
The benefit of this approach is that generating coordinates for specific positions within each phase is trivial.
# 25% into G1 g1 25 25 # 5% into G2 g2 5 5 # 50% into M m 50 50
The drawback is that generating coordinates based on position within the cycle is harder. For example, to figure out the coordinate for 60% into the cycle, you have to first calculate which phase it falls into and then the relative position within that phase.
Here, you would define a single axis, which corresponds to the full length of the cycle.
# the entire cycle is the axis chr - cycle cycle 0 100 greys-4-seq-1
This second method is covered in the next tutorial, Cell Cycle — Part 2.
I will set up the tick marks so that they run 0-100% in each phase and have labels like 0%, 10%, 20%, etc. I will also use grids to visually divide the phase segments into 5% regions.
Because the spacing will be relative (e.g. every 5% and 10%), we'll need to use the relative tick mark features:
<ticks> spacing_type = relative <tick> rspacing = 0.05 </tick> <tick> rspacing = 0.10 </tick> </ticks>
We also want the tick mark label to be relative, so that the label at the 10% tick mark will show 10% and not the actual position that the 10% corresponds to. Here are the relevant parameters:
<ticks> label_relative = yes # the label will be pos/axis_length format = %d rmultiplier = 100 # 0.45 will be shown as 0.45*100=45 suffix = % <tick> rspacing = 0.10 show_label = yes label_size = 26p label_offset = 5p </tick> </ticks>
By adding a grid to both the 5% and 10% ticks, you can extend the divisions provided by the ticks into other parts of the image. The relevant parameters are
show_grid = yes <ticks> grid = yes grid_start = dims(ideogram,radius_outer) # grid runs from outer ideogram edge grid_end = dims(ideogram,radius_inner) # ... to inner ideogram edge grid_color = white <tick> rspacing = 0.05 grid_thickness = 1p </tick> <tick> rspacing = 0.10 grid_thickness = 2p </tick> </ticks>
We've defined the axis sizes for each phase to be the same (100 units). The actual duration of phases is different, so the axes will need to be scaled accordingly.
chromosomes_scale = g1=0.45,s=0.35,g2=0.15,m=0.05
The benefit of this approach over scaling coordinates is that you can change the length of the phases and keep the relative positions of all points intact without changing any of the coordinates in your data.
# 45:35:15:5 chromosomes_scale = g1=0.45,s=0.35,g2=0.15,m=0.05 # shorter G1: 20:60:15:5 chromosomes_scale = g1=0.20,s=0.60,g2=0.15,m=0.05
To remove a phase from the figure, use the
#don't show phase m chromosomes = -m
Suppose that you have identified some genes (A..J) that are active at certain parts of each phase. Here I define a data file that will be used to position both symbols and text on the figure. I've given each data point a
type parameter, so that these can be used later to change the text label and color of the symbol.
# genes.txt # A active at 5% into g1 g1 5 5 0 name=A,type=1 # B active at 25% into g1 g1 25 25 0 name=B,type=1 g1 45 45 0 name=C,type=1 g1 55 55 0 name=D,type=1 g1 75 75 0 name=E,type=1 s 25 25 0 name=F,type=1 s 75 75 0 name=G,type=1 g2 15 15 0 name=H,type=2 g2 35 35 0 name=I,type=2 g2 65 65 0 name=J,type=2
The labels are created using a text track. The small trick here is that the position of the text track is inside the phase segments
r0 = 0.95r
but the text label is outside the phase segments, connected by a label link.
show_links = yes link_dims = 0p,200p,20p,10p,20p link_thickness = 3 link_color = black
We also need a rule that changes the label of the text, because the data file has
0 for each position. We'll derive the value of the text data point, which is what the label will be, from the
<rule> condition = 1 value = eval(var(name)) </rule>
One way to place symbols on the plot is define a zero-height scatter plot. We can use the same data file as for the text labels. Rules will be used to change the color of the symbol based on the
<plot> type = scatter file = genes.txt r0 = 0.95r r1 = 0.95r glyph = circle glyph_size = 36 color = white stroke_color = black stroke_thickness = 2 <rules> <rule> condition = var(type) == 1 color = blues-5-seq-4 </rule> <rule> condition = var(type) == 2 color = reds-5-seq-4 </rule> </rules> </plot>
To connect positions in the cycle with curves, the link track is used. Here the input data file defines each link as a coordinate pair, with any optional parameters.
# links.txt g1 5 5 g1 25 25 type=1 g1 5 5 g1 45 45 type=1 g1 5 5 g1 55 55 type=1 g1 5 5 g1 75 75 type=1 g2 15 15 g2 35 35 type=2 g2 15 15 g2 65 65 type=2 ...
Note that these positions have to be defined again — the coordinates in the
genes.txt file used for the text labels and symbol positions cannot be referenced.
<link> file = links.txt radius = 0.95r bezier_radius = 0r # shorter links will be drawn closer # to the edge of the circle bezier_radius_purity = 0.1 crest = 1 thickness = 3 <rules> <rule> condition = var(type) == 1 color = red </rule> <rule> condition = var(type) == 2 color = blue </rule> </rules> </link>
I've used rules to change the color of the link based on the value of the
type parameter in the