Liftoff: Accurate mapping of gene annotations

Alaina Shumate, Steven L. Salzberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Motivation: Improvements in DNA sequencing technology and computational methods have led to a substantial increase in the creation of high-quality genome assemblies of many species. To understand the biology of these genomes, annotation of gene features and other functional elements is essential; however, for most species, only the reference genome is well-annotated. Results: One strategy to annotate new or improved genome assemblies is to map or 'lift over' the genes from a previously annotated reference genome. Here, we describe Liftoff, a new genome annotation lift-over tool capable of mapping genes between two assemblies of the same or closely related species. Liftoff aligns genes from a reference genome to a target genome and finds the mapping that maximizes sequence identity while preserving the structure of each exon, transcript and gene. We show that Liftoff can accurately map 99.9% of genes between two versions of the human reference genome with an average sequence identity >99.9%. We also show that Liftoff can map genes across species by successfully lifting over 98.3% of human protein-coding genes to a chimpanzee genome assembly with 98.2% sequence identity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1639-1643
Number of pages5
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 15 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics
  • Computational Mathematics


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