MAF stands for Multiple Alignment Format and is format to store multiple alignments in one file. It is becoming the de facto standard for whole genome multiple alignments.
The .maf format is line-oriented. Each multiple alignment ends with a blank line. Each sequence in an alignment is on a single line, which can get quite long, but there is no length limit. Words in a line are delimited by any white space. Lines starting with # are considered to be comments. Lines starting with ## can be ignored by most programs, but contain meta-data of one form or another.
The file is divided into paragraphs that terminate in a blank line. Within a paragraph, the first word of a line indicates its type. Each multiple alignment is in a separate paragraph that begins with an "a" line and contains an "s" line for each sequence in the multiple alignment. Some MAF files may contain other optional line types:
- an "i" line containing information about what is in the aligned species DNA before and after the immediately preceding "s" line
- an "e" line containing information about the size of the gap between the alignments that span the current block
- a "q" line indicating the quality of each aligned base for the species
track name=euArc visibility=pack ##maf version=1 scoring=tba.v8 # tba.v8 (((human chimp) baboon) (mouse rat)) a score=23262.0 s hg18.chr7 27578828 38 + 158545518 AAA-GGGAATGTTAACCAAATGA---ATTGTCTCTTACGGTG s panTro1.chr6 28741140 38 + 161576975 AAA-GGGAATGTTAACCAAATGA---ATTGTCTCTTACGGTG s baboon 116834 38 + 4622798 AAA-GGGAATGTTAACCAAATGA---GTTGTCTCTTATGGTG s mm4.chr6 53215344 38 + 151104725 -AATGGGAATGTTAAGCAAACGA---ATTGTCTCTCAGTGTG s rn3.chr4 81344243 40 + 187371129 -AA-GGGGATGCTAAGCCAATGAGTTGTTGTCTCTCAATGTG a score=5062.0 s hg18.chr7 27699739 6 + 158545518 TAAAGA s panTro1.chr6 28862317 6 + 161576975 TAAAGA s baboon 241163 6 + 4622798 TAAAGA s mm4.chr6 53303881 6 + 151104725 TAAAGA s rn3.chr4 81444246 6 + 187371129 taagga a score=6636.0 s hg18.chr7 27707221 13 + 158545518 gcagctgaaaaca s panTro1.chr6 28869787 13 + 161576975 gcagctgaaaaca s baboon 249182 13 + 4622798 gcagctgaaaaca s mm4.chr6 53310102 13 + 151104725 ACAGCTGAAAATA