Future Plans


VRS covers a fundamental subset of data types to represent variation, thus far predominantly related to the replacement of a subsequence in a reference sequence. Increasing its applicability will require supporting more complex types of variation, including:

  • genotypes

  • structural variation

  • mosaicism and chimerism

  • categorical variation


Planned Variation Representation Specfication Schema

See Current schema diagram for legend.

Existing classes are colored green. Components that are undergoing testing and evaluation and are candidates for the next release cycle are yellow. Components that are planned but still undergoing requirement gathering and initial development are colored red.


The following sections provide a preview of planned concepts under way to address a broader representation of variation.

Intervals and Locations

VRS uses Location subclasses to define where variation occurs. The schema is designed to be extensible to new kinds of Intervals and Locations in order to support, for example, fuzzy coordinates or feature-based locations.


Representation of complex coordinates based on relative locations or offsets from a known location. Examples include “left of” a given position and intronic positions measured from intron-exon junctions.

Computational definition

Under development.

Information model

Under development.

Variation Classes

Additional Variation concepts that are being planned for future consideration in the specification. See Variation for more information.

Structural Variation


This concept is being refined. Please comment at https://github.com/ga4gh/vrs/issues/103

The aberrant joining of two segments of DNA that are not typically contiguous. In the context of joining two distinct coding sequences, translocations result in a gene fusion, which is also covered by this VRS definition.

Computational definition

A joining of two sequences is defined by two Location objects and an indication of the join “pattern” (advice needed on conventional terminology, if any).

Information model

Under consideration. See https://github.com/ga4gh/vrs/issues/28.


t(9;22)(q34;q11) in BCR-ABL


The genetic state of an organism, whether complete (defined over the whole genome) or incomplete (defined over a subset of the genome).

Computational definition

A list of Haplotypes.

Information model








Variation Id; MUST be unique within document




Variation type; MUST be set to ‘Genotype




Declaration of completeness of the Haplotype definition. Values are:

  • UNKNOWN: Other Haplotypes may exist.

  • PARTIAL: Other Haplotypes exist but are unspecified.

  • COMPLETE: The Genotype declares a complete set of Haplotypes.


Haplotype[] or CURIE[]


List of Haplotypes or Haplotype identifiers; length MUST agree with ploidy of genomic region

Implementation guidance

  • Haplotypes in a Genotype MAY occur at different locations or on different reference sequences. For example, an individual may have haplotypes on two population-specific references.

  • Haplotypes in a Genotype MAY contain differing numbers of Alleles or Alleles at different Locations.


  • The term “genotype” has two, related definitions in common use. The narrower definition is a set of alleles observed at a single location and with a ploidy of two, such as a pair of single residue variants on an autosome. The broader, generalized definition is a set of alleles at multiple locations and/or with ploidy other than two.The VRS Genotype entity is based on this broader definition.

  • The term “diplotype” is often used to refer to two haplotypes. The VRS Genotype entity subsumes the conventional definition of diplotype. Therefore, the VRS model does not include an explicit entity for diplotypes. See this note for a discussion.

  • The VRS model makes no assumptions about ploidy of an organism or individual. The number of Haplotypes in a Genotype is the observed ploidy of the individual.

  • In diploid organisms, there are typically two instances of each autosomal chromosome, and therefore two instances of sequence at a particular location. Thus, Genotypes will often list two Haplotypes. In the case of haploid chromosomes or haploinsufficiency, the Genotype consists of a single Haplotype.

  • A consequence of the computational definition is that Haplotypes at overlapping or adjacent intervals MUST NOT be included in the same Genotype. However, two or more Alleles MAY always be rewritten as an equivalent Allele with a common sequence and interval context.

  • The rationale for permitting Genotypes with Haplotypes defined on different reference sequences is to enable the accurate representation of segments of DNA with the most appropriate population-specific reference sequence.


SO: Genotype (SO:0001027) — A genotype is a variant genome, complete or incomplete.


Genotypes represent Haplotypes with arbitrary ploidy The VRS defines Haplotypes as a list of Alleles, and Genotypes as a list of Haplotypes. In essence, Haplotypes and Genotypes represent two distinct dimensions of containment: Haplotypes represent the “in phase” relationship of Alleles while Genotypes represents sets of Haplotypes of arbitrary ploidy.

There are two important consequences of these definitions: There is no single-location Genotype. Users of SNP data will be familiar with representations like rs7412 C/C, which indicates the diploid state at a position. In the VRS, this is merely a special case of a Genotype with two Haplotypes, each of which is defined with only one Allele (the same Allele in this case). The VRS does not define a diplotype type. A diplotype is a special case of a VRS Genotype with exactly two Haplotypes. In practice, software data types that assume a ploidy of 2 make it very difficult to represent haploid states, copy number loss, and copy number gain, all of which occur when representing human data. In addition, assuming ploidy=2 makes software incompatible with organisms with other ploidy. The VRS makes no assumptions about “normal” ploidy.

In other words, the VRS does not represent single-position Genotypes or diplotypes because both concepts are subsumed by the Allele, Haplotype, and Genotypes entities.

Categorical Variation

Some variations are defined by categorical concepts, rather than specific locations and states. These variations go by many terms, including categorical variants, bucket variants, container variants, or variant classes. These forms of variation are not described by any broadly-recognized variation format, but modeling them is a key requirement for the representation of aggregate variation descriptions as commonly found in biomedical literature. Our future work will focus on the formal specification for representing these variations with sets of rules, which we currently call Categorical Variation.