Algorithms for Molecular Biology

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ISSN / EISSN : 1748-7188 / 1748-7188
Total articles ≅ 386
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Algorithms for Molecular Biology, Volume 16, pp 1-25; doi:10.1186/s13015-021-00190-9

Gene clusters are groups of genes that are co-locally conserved across various genomes, not necessarily in the same order. Their discovery and analysis is valuable in tasks such as gene annotation and prediction of gene interactions, and in the study of genome organization and evolution. The discovery of conserved gene clusters in a given set of genomes is a well studied problem, but with the rapid sequencing of prokaryotic genomes a new problem is inspired. Namely, given an already known gene cluster that was discovered and studied in one genomic dataset, to identify all the instances of the gene cluster in a given new genomic sequence. Thus, we define a new problem in comparative genomics, denoted PQ-Tree Search that takes as input a PQ-tree T representing the known gene orders of a gene cluster of interest, a gene-to-gene substitution scoring function h, integer arguments $$d_T$$ d T and $$d_S$$ d S , and a new sequence of genes S. The objective is to identify in S approximate new instances of the gene cluster; These instances could vary from the known gene orders by genome rearrangements that are constrained by T, by gene substitutions that are governed by h, and by gene deletions and insertions that are bounded from above by $$d_T$$ d T and $$d_S$$ d S , respectively. We prove that PQ-Tree Search is -hard and propose a parameterized algorithm that solves the optimization variant of PQ-Tree Search in $$O^*(2^{\gamma })$$ O ∗ ( 2 γ ) time, where $$\gamma$$ γ is the maximum degree of a node in T and $$O^*$$ O ∗ is used to hide factors polynomial in the input size. The algorithm is implemented as a search tool, denoted PQFinder, and applied to search for instances of chromosomal gene clusters in plasmids, within a dataset of 1,487 prokaryotic genomes. We report on 29 chromosomal gene clusters that are rearranged in plasmids, where the rearrangements are guided by the corresponding PQ-trees. One of these results, coding for a heavy metal efflux pump, is further analysed to exemplify how PQFinder can be harnessed to reveal interesting new structural variants of known gene clusters.
Algorithms for Molecular Biology, Volume 16, pp 1-17; doi:10.1186/s13015-021-00193-6

Background In the context of biomarker discovery and molecular characterization of diseases, laser capture microdissection is a highly effective approach to extract disease-specific regions from complex, heterogeneous tissue samples. For the extraction to be successful, these regions have to satisfy certain constraints in size and shape and thus have to be decomposed into feasible fragments. Results We model this problem of constrained shape decomposition as the computation of optimal feasible decompositions of simple polygons. We use a skeleton-based approach and present an algorithmic framework that allows the implementation of various feasibility criteria as well as optimization goals. Motivated by our application, we consider different constraints and examine the resulting fragmentations. We evaluate our algorithm on lung tissue samples in comparison to a heuristic decomposition approach. Our method achieved a success rate of over 95% in the microdissection and tissue yield was increased by 10–30%. Conclusion We present a novel approach for constrained shape decomposition by demonstrating its advantages for the application in the microdissection of tissue samples. In comparison to the previous decomposition approach, the proposed method considerably increases the amount of successfully dissected tissue.
Leah L. Weber,
Algorithms for Molecular Biology, Volume 16, pp 1-12; doi:10.1186/s13015-021-00194-5

Background Cancer arises from an evolutionary process where somatic mutations give rise to clonal expansions. Reconstructing this evolutionary process is useful for treatment decision-making as well as understanding evolutionary patterns across patients and cancer types. In particular, classifying a tumor’s evolutionary process as either linear or branched and understanding what cancer types and which patients have each of these trajectories could provide useful insights for both clinicians and researchers. While comprehensive cancer phylogeny inference from single-cell DNA sequencing data is challenging due to limitations with current sequencing technology and the complexity of the resulting problem, current data might provide sufficient signal to accurately classify a tumor’s evolutionary history as either linear or branched. Results We introduce the Linear Perfect Phylogeny Flipping (LPPF) problem as a means of testing two alternative hypotheses for the pattern of evolution, which we prove to be NP-hard. We develop Phyolin, which uses constraint programming to solve the LPPF problem. Through both in silico experiments and real data application, we demonstrate the performance of our method, outperforming a competing machine learning approach. Conclusion Phyolin is an accurate, easy to use and fast method for classifying an evolutionary trajectory as linear or branched given a tumor’s single-cell DNA sequencing data.
Trevor S. Frisby, Christopher James Langmead
Algorithms for Molecular Biology, Volume 16, pp 1-15; doi:10.1186/s13015-021-00195-4

Background Directed evolution (DE) is a technique for protein engineering that involves iterative rounds of mutagenesis and screening to search for sequences that optimize a given property, such as binding affinity to a specified target. Unfortunately, the underlying optimization problem is under-determined, and so mutations introduced to improve the specified property may come at the expense of unmeasured, but nevertheless important properties (ex. solubility, thermostability, etc). We address this issue by formulating DE as a regularized Bayesian optimization problem where the regularization term reflects evolutionary or structure-based constraints. Results We applied our approach to DE to three representative proteins, GB1, BRCA1, and SARS-CoV-2 Spike, and evaluated both evolutionary and structure-based regularization terms. The results of these experiments demonstrate that: (i) structure-based regularization usually leads to better designs (and never hurts), compared to the unregularized setting; (ii) evolutionary-based regularization tends to be least effective; and (iii) regularization leads to better designs because it effectively focuses the search in certain areas of sequence space, making better use of the experimental budget. Additionally, like previous work in Machine learning assisted DE, we find that our approach significantly reduces the experimental burden of DE, relative to model-free methods. Conclusion Introducing regularization into a Bayesian ML-assisted DE framework alters the exploratory patterns of the underlying optimization routine, and can shift variant selections towards those with a range of targeted and desirable properties. In particular, we find that structure-based regularization often improves variant selection compared to unregularized approaches, and never hurts.
, Thien Le, Sarah A. Christensen, Erin K. Molloy,
Algorithms for Molecular Biology, Volume 16, pp 1-18; doi:10.1186/s13015-021-00189-2

One of the Grand Challenges in Science is the construction of the Tree of Life, an evolutionary tree containing several million species, spanning all life on earth. However, the construction of the Tree of Life is enormously computationally challenging, as all the current most accurate methods are either heuristics for NP-hard optimization problems or Bayesian MCMC methods that sample from tree space. One of the most promising approaches for improving scalability and accuracy for phylogeny estimation uses divide-and-conquer: a set of species is divided into overlapping subsets, trees are constructed on the subsets, and then merged together using a “supertree method”. Here, we present Exact-RFS-2, the first polynomial-time algorithm to find an optimal supertree of two trees, using the Robinson-Foulds Supertree (RFS) criterion (a major approach in supertree estimation that is related to maximum likelihood supertrees), and we prove that finding the RFS of three input trees is NP-hard. Exact-RFS-2 is available in open source form on Github at
, Rayan Chikhi, Paul Medvedev
Algorithms for Molecular Biology, Volume 16, pp 1-14; doi:10.1186/s13015-021-00192-7

K-mer based methods have become prevalent in many areas of bioinformatics. In applications such as database search, they often work with large multi-terabyte-sized datasets. Storing such large datasets is a detriment to tool developers, tool users, and reproducibility efforts. General purpose compressors like gzip, or those designed for read data, are sub-optimal because they do not take into account the specific redundancy pattern in k-mer sets. In our earlier work (Rahman and Medvedev, RECOMB 2020), we presented an algorithm UST-Compress that uses a spectrum-preserving string set representation to compress a set of k-mers to disk. In this paper, we present two improved methods for disk compression of k-mer sets, called ESS-Compress and ESS-Tip-Compress. They use a more relaxed notion of string set representation to further remove redundancy from the representation of UST-Compress. We explore their behavior both theoretically and on real data. We show that they improve the compression sizes achieved by UST-Compress by up to 27 percent, across a breadth of datasets. We also derive lower bounds on how well this type of compression strategy can hope to do.
Katharina Jahn, Niko Beerenwinkel,
Algorithms for Molecular Biology, Volume 16, pp 1-15; doi:10.1186/s13015-021-00188-3

Background Mutation trees are rooted trees in which nodes are of arbitrary degree and labeled with a mutation set. These trees, also referred to as clonal trees, are used in computational oncology to represent the mutational history of tumours. Classical tree metrics such as the popular Robinson–Foulds distance are of limited use for the comparison of mutation trees. One reason is that mutation trees inferred with different methods or for different patients often contain different sets of mutation labels. Results We generalize the Robinson–Foulds distance into a set of distance metrics called Bourque distances for comparing mutation trees. We show the basic version of the Bourque distance for mutation trees can be computed in linear time. We also make a connection between the Robinson–Foulds distance and the nearest neighbor interchange distance.
, Sarah von Löhneysen, Jörg Fallmann, Polina Drozdova, Tom Hartmann,
Algorithms for Molecular Biology, Volume 16, pp 1-23; doi:10.1186/s13015-021-00186-5

Background Advances in genome sequencing over the last years have lead to a fundamental paradigm shift in the field. With steadily decreasing sequencing costs, genome projects are no longer limited by the cost of raw sequencing data, but rather by computational problems associated with genome assembly. There is an urgent demand for more efficient and and more accurate methods is particular with regard to the highly complex and often very large genomes of animals and plants. Most recently, “hybrid” methods that integrate short and long read data have been devised to address this need. Results is such a hybrid genome assembler. It has been designed specificially with an emphasis on utilizing low-coverage short and long reads. starts from a bipartite overlap graph between long reads and restrictively filtered short-read unitigs. This graph is translated into a long-read overlap graph G. Instead of the more conventional approach of removing tips, bubbles, and other local features, stepwisely extracts subgraphs whose global properties approach a disjoint union of paths. First, a consistently oriented subgraph is extracted, which in a second step is reduced to a directed acyclic graph. In the next step, properties of proper interval graphs are used to extract contigs as maximum weight paths. These path are translated into genomic sequences only in the final step. A prototype implementation of , entirely written in python, not only yields significantly more accurate assemblies of the yeast and fruit fly genomes compared to state-of-the-art pipelines but also requires much less computational effort. Conclusions is new low-cost genome assembler that copes well with large genomes and low coverage. It is based on a novel approach for reducing the overlap graph to a collection of paths, thus opening new avenues for future improvements. Availability The prototype is available at
Algorithms for Molecular Biology, Volume 16, pp 1-18; doi:10.1186/s13015-021-00187-4

Background Genotype-phenotype maps provide a meaningful filtration of sequence space and RNA secondary structures are particular such phenotypes. Compatible sequences, which satisfy the base-pairing constraints of a given RNA structure, play an important role in the context of neutral evolution. Sequences that are simultaneously compatible with two given structures (bicompatible sequences), are beacons in phenotypic transitions, induced by erroneously replicating populations of RNA sequences. RNA riboswitches, which are capable of expressing two distinct secondary structures without changing the underlying sequence, are one example of bicompatible sequences in living organisms. Results We present a full loop energy model Boltzmann sampler of bicompatible sequences for pairs of structures. The sequence sampler employs a dynamic programming routine whose time complexity is polynomial when assuming the maximum number of exposed vertices, $$\kappa $$ κ , is a constant. The parameter $$\kappa $$ κ depends on the two structures and can be very large. We introduce a novel topological framework encapsulating the relations between loops that sheds light on the understanding of $$\kappa $$ κ . Based on this framework, we give an algorithm to sample sequences with minimum $$\kappa $$ κ on a particular topologically classified case as well as giving hints to the solution in the other cases. As a result, we utilize our sequence sampler to study some established riboswitches. Conclusion Our analysis of riboswitch sequences shows that a pair of structures needs to satisfy key properties in order to facilitate phenotypic transitions and that pairs of random structures are unlikely to do so. Our analysis observes a distinct signature of riboswitch sequences, suggesting a new criterion for identifying native sequences and sequences subjected to evolutionary pressure. Our free software is available at:
Kingshuk Mukherjee, Massimiliano Rossi, Leena Salmela, Christina Boucher
Algorithms for Molecular Biology, Volume 16, pp 1-13; doi:10.1186/s13015-021-00182-9

Genome wide optical maps are high resolution restriction maps that give a unique numeric representation to a genome. They are produced by assembling hundreds of thousands of single molecule optical maps, which are called Rmaps. Unfortunately, there are very few choices for assembling Rmap data. There exists only one publicly-available non-proprietary method for assembly and one proprietary software that is available via an executable. Furthermore, the publicly-available method, by Valouev et al. (Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 103(43):15770–15775, 2006), follows the overlap-layout-consensus (OLC) paradigm, and therefore, is unable to scale for relatively large genomes. The algorithm behind the proprietary method, Bionano Genomics’ Solve, is largely unknown. In this paper, we extend the definition of bi-labels in the paired de Bruijn graph to the context of optical mapping data, and present the first de Bruijn graph based method for Rmap assembly. We implement our approach, which we refer to as rmapper, and compare its performance against the assembler of Valouev et al. (Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 103(43):15770–15775, 2006) and Solve by Bionano Genomics on data from three genomes: E. coli, human, and climbing perch fish (Anabas Testudineus). Our method was able to successfully run on all three genomes. The method of Valouev et al. (Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 103(43):15770–15775, 2006) only successfully ran on E. coli. Moreover, on the human genome rmapper was at least 130 times faster than Bionano Solve, used five times less memory and produced the highest genome fraction with zero mis-assemblies. Our software, rmapper is written in C++ and is publicly available under GNU General Public License at
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