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Computing the Rearrangement Distance of Natural Genomes

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Research in Computational Molecular Biology (RECOMB 2020)


The computation of genomic distances has been a very active field of computational comparative genomics over the last 25 years. Substantial results include the polynomial-time computability of the inversion distance by Hannenhalli and Pevzner in 1995 and the introduction of the double-cut and join (DCJ) distance by Yancopoulos, Attie and Friedberg in 2005. Both results, however, rely on the assumption that the genomes under comparison contain the same set of unique markers (syntenic genomic regions, sometimes also referred to as genes). In 2015, Shao, Lin and Moret relax this condition by allowing for duplicate markers in the analysis. This generalized version of the genomic distance problem is NP-hard, and they give an ILP solution that is efficient enough to be applied to real-world datasets. A restriction of their approach is that it can be applied only to balanced genomes, that have equal numbers of duplicates of any marker. Therefore it still needs a delicate preprocessing of the input data in which excessive copies of unbalanced markers have to be removed.

In this paper we present an algorithm solving the genomic distance problem for natural genomes, in which any marker may occur an arbitrary number of times. Our method is based on a new graph data structure, the multi-relational diagram, that allows an elegant extension of the ILP by Shao, Lin and Moret to count runs of markers that are under- or over-represented in one genome with respect to the other and need to be inserted or deleted, respectively. With this extension, previous restrictions on the genome configurations are lifted, for the first time enabling an uncompromising rearrangement analysis. Any marker sequence can directly be used for the distance calculation.

The evaluation of our approach shows that it can be used to analyze genomes with up to a few ten thousand markers, which we demonstrate on simulated and real data.

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    The exclusive markers are not restricted to be singular, because it is mathematically trivial to transform them into singular markers when they occur in multiple copies.


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Correspondence to Jens Stoye .

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Bohnenkämper, L., Braga, M.D.V., Doerr, D., Stoye, J. (2020). Computing the Rearrangement Distance of Natural Genomes. In: Schwartz, R. (eds) Research in Computational Molecular Biology. RECOMB 2020. Lecture Notes in Computer Science(), vol 12074. Springer, Cham.

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