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Mol Biol Evol. 1989 Nov;6(6):649-68.

A new method that simultaneously aligns and reconstructs ancestral sequences for any number of homologous sequences, when the phylogeny is given.

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  • 1NIEHS, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina 27709.


Among the fundamental problems in molecular evolution and in the analysis of homologous sequences are alignment, phylogeny reconstruction, and the reconstruction of ancestral sequences. This paper presents a fast, combined solution to these problems. The new algorithm gives an approximation to the minimal history in terms of a distance function on sequences. The distance function on sequences is a minimal weighted path length constructed from substitutions and insertions-deletions of segments of any length. Substitutions are weighted with an arbitrary metric on the set of nucleotides or amino acids, and indels are weighted with a gap penalty function of the form gk = a + (bxk), where k is the length of the indel and a and b are two positive numbers. A novel feature is the introduction of the concept of sequence graphs and a generalization of the traditional dynamic sequence comparison algorithm to the comparison of sequence graphs. Sequence graphs ease several computational problems. They are used to represent large sets of sequences that can then be compared simultaneously. Furthermore, they allow the handling of multiple, equally good, alignments, where previous methods were forced to make arbitrary choices. A program written in C implemented this method; it was tested first on 22 5S RNA sequences.

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