Package: AnnotationFilter
Authors: Martin Morgan [aut], Johannes Rainer [aut], Joachim Bargsten [ctb], Daniel Van Twisk [ctb], Bioconductor Maintainer [cre]
Last modified: 2017-10-30 17:37:05
Compiled: Mon Oct 30 21:20:21 2017

1 Introduction

A large variety of annotation resources are available in Bioconductor. Accessing the full content of these databases or even of single tables is computationally expensive and in many instances not required, as users may want to extract only sub-sets of the data e.g. genomic coordinates of a single gene. In that respect, filtering annotation resources before data extraction has a major impact on performance and increases the usability of such genome-scale databases.

The AnnotationFilter package was thus developed to provide basic filter classes to enable a common filtering framework for Bioconductor annotation resources. AnnotationFilter defines filter classes for some of the most commonly used features in annotation databases, such as symbol or genename. Each filter class is supposed to work on a single database table column and to facilitate filtering on the provided values. Such filter classes enable the user to build complex queries to retrieve specific annotations without needing to know column or table names or the layout of the underlying databases. While initially being developed to be used in the Organism.dplyr and ensembldb packages, the filter classes and the related filtering concept can be easily added to other annotation packages too.

2 Filter classes

All filter classes extend the basic AnnotationFilter class and take one or more values and a condition to allow filtering on a single database table column. Based on the type of the input value, filter classes are divided into:

  • CharacterFilter: takes a character value of length >= 1 and supports conditions ==, !=, startsWith and endsWith. An example would be a GeneIdFilter that allows to filter on gene IDs.

  • IntegerFilter: takes a single integer as input and supports the conditions ==, !=, >, <, >= and <=. An example would be a GeneStartFilter that filters results on the (chromosomal) start coordinates of genes.

  • GRangesFilter: is a special filter, as it takes a GRanges as value and performs the filtering on a combination of columns (i.e. start and end coordinate as well as sequence name and strand). To be consistent with the findOverlaps method from the IRanges package, the constructor of the GRangesFilter filter takes a type argument to define its condition. Supported values are "any" (the default) that retrieves all entries overlapping the GRanges, "start" and "end" matching all features with the same start and end coordinate respectively, "within" that matches all features that are within the range defined by the GRanges and "equal" that returns features that are equal to the GRanges.

The names of the filter classes are intuitive, the first part corresponding to the database column name with each character following a _ being capitalized, followed by the key word Filter. The name of a filter for a database table column gene_id is thus called GeneIdFilter. The default database column for a filter is stored in its field slot (accessible via the field method).

The supportedFilters method can be used to get an overview of all available filter objects defined in AnnotationFilter.

##               filter        field
## 16      CdsEndFilter      cds_end
## 15    CdsStartFilter    cds_start
## 6       EntrezFilter       entrez
## 19     ExonEndFilter     exon_end
## 1       ExonIdFilter      exon_id
## 2     ExonNameFilter    exon_name
## 18    ExonRankFilter    exon_rank
## 17   ExonStartFilter   exon_start
## 24     GRangesFilter      granges
## 5  GeneBiotypeFilter gene_biotype
## 21     GeneEndFilter     gene_end
## 3       GeneIdFilter      gene_id
## 20   GeneStartFilter   gene_start
## 4     GenenameFilter     genename
## 11   ProteinIdFilter   protein_id
## 13     SeqNameFilter     seq_name
## 14   SeqStrandFilter   seq_strand
## 7       SymbolFilter       symbol
## 10   TxBiotypeFilter   tx_biotype
## 23       TxEndFilter       tx_end
## 8         TxIdFilter        tx_id
## 9       TxNameFilter      tx_name
## 22     TxStartFilter     tx_start
## 12     UniprotFilter      uniprot

Note that the AnnotationFilter package does provides only the filter classes but not the functionality to apply the filtering. Such functionality is annotation resource and database layout dependent and needs thus to be implemented in the packages providing access to annotation resources.

3 Usage

Filters are created via their dedicated constructor functions, such as the GeneIdFilter function for the GeneIdFilter class. Because of this simple and cheap creation, filter classes are thought to be read-only and thus don’t provide setter methods to change their slot values. In addition to the constructor functions, AnnotationFilter provides the functionality to translate query expressions into filter classes (see further below for an example).

Below we create a SymbolFilter that could be used to filter an annotation resource to retrieve all entries associated with the specified symbol value(s).


smbl <- SymbolFilter("BCL2")
## class: SymbolFilter 
## condition: == 
## value: BCL2

Such a filter is supposed to be used to retrieve all entries associated to features with a value in a database table column called symbol matching the filter’s value "BCL2".

Using the "startsWith" condition we could define a filter to retrieve all entries for genes with a gene name/symbol starting with the specified value (e.g. "BCL2" and "BCL2L11" for the example below.

smbl <- SymbolFilter("BCL2", condition = "startsWith")
## class: SymbolFilter 
## condition: startsWith 
## value: BCL2

In addition to the constructor functions, AnnotationFilter provides a functionality to create filter instances in a more natural and intuitive way by translating filter expressions (written as a formula, i.e. starting with a ~).

smbl <- AnnotationFilter(~ symbol == "BCL2")
## class: SymbolFilter 
## condition: == 
## value: BCL2

Individual AnnotationFilter objects can be combined in an AnnotationFilterList. This class extends list and provides an additional logicOp() that defines how its individual filters are supposed to be combined. The length of logicOp() has to be 1 less than the number of filter objects. Each element in logicOp() defines how two consecutive filters should be combined. Below we create a AnnotationFilterList containing two filter objects to be combined with a logical AND.

flt <- AnnotationFilter(~ symbol == "BCL2" &
                            tx_biotype == "protein_coding")
## AnnotationFilterList of length 2 
## symbol == 'BCL2' & tx_biotype == 'protein_coding'

Note that the AnnotationFilter function does not (yet) support translation of nested expressions, such as (symbol == "BCL2L11" & tx_biotype == "nonsense_mediated_decay") | (symbol == "BCL2" & tx_biotype == "protein_coding"). Such queries can however be build by nesting AnnotationFilterList classes.

## Define the filter query for the first pair of filters.
afl1 <- AnnotationFilterList(SymbolFilter("BCL2L11"),
## Define the second filter pair in ( brackets should be combined.
afl2 <- AnnotationFilterList(SymbolFilter("BCL2"),
## Now combine both with a logical OR
afl <- AnnotationFilterList(afl1, afl2, logicOp = "|")

## AnnotationFilterList of length 2 
## (symbol == 'BCL2L11' & tx_biotype == 'nonsense_mediated_decay') | (symbol == 'BCL2' & tx_biotype == 'protein_coding')

This AnnotationFilterList would now select all entries for all transcripts of the gene BCL2L11 with the biotype nonsense_mediated_decay or for all protein coding transcripts of the gene BCL2.

4 Using AnnotationFilter in other packages

The AnnotationFilter package does only provide filter classes, but no filtering functionality. This has to be implemented in the package using the filters. In this section we first show in a very simple example how AnnotationFilter classes could be used to filter a data.frame and subsequently explore how a simple filter framework could be implemented for a SQL based annotation resources.

Let’s first define a simple data.frame containing the data we want to filter. Note that subsetting this data.frame using AnnotationFilter is obviously not the best solution, but it should help to understand the basic concept.

## Define a simple gene table
gene <- data.frame(gene_id = 1:10,
                   symbol = c(letters[1:9], "b"),
                   seq_name = paste0("chr", c(1, 4, 4, 8, 1, 2, 5, 3, "X", 4)),
                   stringsAsFactors = FALSE)
##    gene_id symbol seq_name
## 1        1      a     chr1
## 2        2      b     chr4
## 3        3      c     chr4
## 4        4      d     chr8
## 5        5      e     chr1
## 6        6      f     chr2
## 7        7      g     chr5
## 8        8      h     chr3
## 9        9      i     chrX
## 10      10      b     chr4

Next we generate a SymbolFilter and inspect what information we can extract from it.

smbl <- SymbolFilter("b")

We can access the filter condition using the condition method

## [1] "=="

The value of the filter using the value method

## [1] "b"

And finally the field (i.e. column in the data table) using the field method.

## [1] "symbol"

With this information we can define a simple function that takes the data table and the filter as input and returns a logical with length equal to the number of rows of the table, TRUE for rows matching the filter.

doMatch <- function(x, fi