Skip to content
A toolkit for QC and visualization of ATAC-seq results.
Branch: master
Clone or download
Type Name Latest commit message Commit time
Failed to load latest commit information.
data/tss Add new TSS files; add strand information to previous TSS files. May 18, 2018
docs 1.0.0 Dec 8, 2017
src Clarify description of TSS enrichment calculation Mar 12, 2019
.dir-locals.el Add support for read groups in alignment files. Oct 3, 2016
.gitignore Add TSS enrichment plot. May 2, 2017
COPYRIGHT 1.0.0 Dec 8, 2017
Makefile 1.0.0 Dec 8, 2017


ataqv: ATAC-seq QC and visualization

What is it?

A toolkit for measuring and comparing ATAC-seq results, made in the Parker lab at the University of Michigan. We wrote it to help us understand how well our ATAC-seq assays had worked, and to make it easier to spot differences that might be caused by library prep or sequencing.

The main program, ataqv, examines your aligned reads and reports some basic metrics, including:

  • reads mapped in proper pairs
  • optical or PCR duplicates
  • reads mapping to autosomal or mitochondrial references
  • the ratio of short to mononucleosomal fragment counts
  • mapping quality
  • various kinds of problematic alignments

If you also have a file of peaks called on your data, that file can be examined to report read coverage of the peaks.

With a file of transcription start sites, ataqv can report a TSS enrichment metric based on the transposition activity around those locations.

The report is printed as plain text to standard output, and detailed metrics are written to JSON files for further processing.

A web-based visualization and comparison tool and a script to prepare the JSON output for it are also provided. The web viewer includes interactive tables of the metrics and plots of fragment length, distance from a fragment length reference distribution, mapping quality, counts of reads overlapping peaks, and peak territory.

Web viewer demo:

Where does it run?

It's tested on Linux and Macs. It may compile and run on other UNIX systems.


If you have questions or suggestions, mail us at, or file a GitHub issue.

Getting started

There are several ways to get ataqv running on your system: install a binary package; install it with Homebrew or Linuxbrew; or build it from source.

Binary packages (Linux only)

We provide several Linux binary packages under recent releases on Github. Install .deb or .rpm files with dpkg or yum, or download and extract the ataqv-x.x.x.tar.gz file and add the full path to the resulting ataqv-x.x.x/bin subdirectory to your PATH environment variable.

Homebrew (Mac or Linux)

The easiest way to install ataqv from source is via Homebrew on Macs, or Linuxbrew on Linux, using our tap. At a shell prompt:

brew tap ParkerLab/tap
brew install ataqv

Building from source manually


To build ataqv, you need:

  • Linux or a Mac (it may work on other UNIX systems, but it's untested)
  • C++11 compiler (gcc 4.9 or newer, or clang on OS X)
  • Boost
  • HTSlib

The mkarv script that collects ataqv results and sets up a web application to visualize them requires Python 2.7 or newer.

To run the test suite, you'll also need LCOV, which can be installed via Homebrew or Linuxbrew.

On Debian-based Linux distributions, you can install dependencies with:

sudo apt install libboost-all-dev libhts-dev libncurses5-dev libtinfo-dev zlib1g-dev lcov

and the latest supported option among:

sudo apt install libstdc++-6-dev
sudo apt install libstdc++-5-dev
sudo apt install libstdc++-4.9-dev


At your shell prompt:

git clone
cd ataqv

If Boost and htslib are not available in default system locations (for example if you're using environment modules, or compiling in your home directory) you'll probably need to give make some hints via the CPPFLAGS and LDFLAGS variables:

make CPPFLAGS="-I/path/to/boost/include -I/path/to/htslib/include" LDFLAGS="-L/path/to/boost/lib -L/path/to/htslib/lib"

If the environment variables BOOST_ROOT or HTSLIB_ROOT are set to directories containing include and lib subdirectories, the compiler configuration can be made simpler:

make BOOST_ROOT=/path/to/boost HTSLIB_ROOT=/path/to/htslib

Or you can specify directories in BOOST_INCLUDE, BOOST_LIB, HTSLIB_INCLUDE, and HTSLIB_LIB separately.

If you use custom locations like this, you will probably need to set LD_LIBRARY_PATH for the shared libraries to be found at runtime:

export LD_LIBRARY_PATH=/path/to/boost/lib:/path/to/htslib/lib:$LD_LIBRARY_PATH

Dependency notes


If your Boost installation used their "tagged" layout, the libraries will include metadata in their names; on Linux this usually just means that they'll have a -mt suffix to indicate multithreading support. Specify BOOST_TAGGED=yes in your make commands to link with those.


If HTSlib was built to use libcurl, you'll need to link with that as well:



The Makefile supports the common DESTDIR and prefix variables. To install to /usr/local:

make install prefix=/usr/local

Support for the Environment Modules system is also included. You can install to the modules tree by defining the MODULES_ROOT and MODULEFILES_ROOT variables. If your modules are kept under /opt/modules, with their accompanying module files under /opt/modulefiles, run:

make install-module MODULES_ROOT=/opt/modules MODULEFILE_ROOT=/opt/modulefiles

And then you should be able to run module load ataqv to have everything available in your environment.

You can create a distribution tarball with:

make dist

It will create a .tar.gz file in the build subdirectory of the source tree. Extract that anywhere and add the bin subdirectory to your PATH environment variable. To use the distribution on another machine, that machine must have the same shared libraries as your build machine. If that's not possible, you can try to build a static distribution with:

make dist-static

However, static compilation has only been tried on Linux (RHEL 6; Debian testing (Stretch) and unstable), and it may not work at all on your distribution. You will almost certainly need HTSlib built without cURL support, as some of the library dependencies are not available as shared libraries. Supply the path to your custom HTSlib with make HTSLIB_STATIC_DIR=/path static.



You'll need to have a BAM file containing alignments of your ATAC-seq reads to your reference genome. If you want accurate duplication metrics, you'll also need to have marked duplicates in that BAM file. If you have a BED file containing peaks called on your data, ataqv can produce some additional metrics using that.

Verifying ataqv results with data from a variety of common tools is on our to-do list, but so far, we've only used bwa, Picard's MarkDuplicates, and MACS2 for these steps. A pipeline like ours can be generated with the included make_ataqv_pipeline script. Its output product starts from a BAM file of aligned reads, marks duplicates and calls peaks, then runs ataqv and produces a web viewer for the output.


The main program is ataqv. Run ataqv --help for complete instructions.

When run, ataqv prints a human-readable summary to its standard output, and writes complete metrics to the JSON file named with the --metrics-file option.

The JSON output can be incorporated into a web application that presents tables and plots of the metrics, and makes it easy to compare results across samples or experiments. Use the mkarv script to create a local instance of the result viewer. A web server is not required, though you can use one to publish your result viewer instance.


The ataqv package includes a script that will set up and run our entire ATAC-seq pipeline on some sample data.

You'll need to have installed ataqv itself, plus Picard tools, samtools, and MACS2 to run the pipeline. On a Mac, you can obtain everything with:

$ brew install ataqv picard-tools samtools
$ pip install MACS2

On Linux, installation of the dependencies is probably specific to your environment and is left as an exercise for the reader. On Debian, apt-get install picard-tools samtools followed by installing MACS2 with pip install MACS2 should be enough.

Once you have the prerequisite programs installed, you can run the example pipeline with:

$ run_ataqv_example /output/path

Comparing your results to others

Part of this project will be publishing ataqv output for as many ATAC-seq experiments as we can get our hands on, so we can compare them and learn how changes to the protocol affect the output. Watch our GitHub docs for updates.


It's not currently concurrent, so don't allocate it more than a single processor. Memory usage should typically be no more than a few hundred megabytes.

Anecdotally, processing a 41GB BAM file containing 1,126,660,186 alignments of the data from the ATAC-seq paper took just under 20 minutes and 2GB of memory. Adding peak metrics extended the run time to almost 40 minutes, but it still used the same amount of memory.

You can’t perform that action at this time.