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Bioinformatics. 2000 Aug;16(8):699-706.

Six-fold speed-up of Smith-Waterman sequence database searches using parallel processing on common microprocessors.

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Institute of Medical Microbiology, University of Oslo, The National Hospital, NO-0027 Oslo, Norway.



Sequence database searching is among the most important and challenging tasks in bioinformatics. The ultimate choice of sequence-search algorithm is that of Smith-Waterman. However, because of the computationally demanding nature of this method, heuristic programs or special-purpose hardware alternatives have been developed. Increased speed has been obtained at the cost of reduced sensitivity or very expensive hardware.


A fast implementation of the Smith-Waterman sequence-alignment algorithm using Single-Instruction, Multiple-Data (SIMD) technology is presented. This implementation is based on the MultiMedia eXtensions (MMX) and Streaming SIMD Extensions (SSE) technology that is embedded in Intel's latest microprocessors. Similar technology exists also in other modern microprocessors. Six-fold speed-up relative to the fastest previously known Smith-Waterman implementation on the same hardware was achieved by an optimized 8-way parallel processing approach. A speed of more than 150 million cell updates per second was obtained on a single Intel Pentium III 500 MHz microprocessor. This is probably the fastest implementation of this algorithm on a single general-purpose microprocessor described to date.

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