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Mol Biol Evol. 2004 Aug;21(8):1565-71. Epub 2004 May 26.

IQPNNI: moving fast through tree space and stopping in time.

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  • 1Heinrich-Heine Universität Düsseldorf, Germany.


An efficient tree reconstruction method (IQPNNI) is introduced to reconstruct a phylogenetic tree based on DNA or amino acid sequence data. Our approach combines various fast algorithms to generate a list of potential candidate trees. The key ingredient is the definition of so-called important quartets (IQs), which allow the computation of an intermediate tree in O(n(2)) time for n sequences. The resulting tree is then further optimized by applying the nearest neighbor interchange (NNI) operation. Subsequently a random fraction of the sequences is deleted from the best tree found so far. The deleted sequences are then re-inserted in the smaller tree using the important quartet puzzling (IQP) algorithm. These steps are repeated several times and the best tree, with respect to the likelihood criterion, is considered as the inferred phylogenetic tree. Moreover, we suggest a rule which indicates when to stop the search. Simulations show that IQPNNI gives a slightly better accuracy than other programs tested. Moreover, we applied the approach to 218 small subunit rRNA sequences and 500 rbcL sequences. We found trees with higher likelihood compared to the results by others. A program to reconstruct DNA or amino acid based phylogenetic trees is available online (

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