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J Comput Biol. 2011 Sep;18(9):1087-114. doi: 10.1089/cmb.2011.0066.

Detecting highways of horizontal gene transfer.

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The Blavatnik School of Computer Science, Tel-Aviv University, Tel-Aviv, Israel.


In a horizontal gene transfer (HGT) event, a gene is transferred between two species that do not have an ancestor-descendant relationship. Typically, no more than a few genes are horizontally transferred between any two species. However, several studies identified pairs of species between which many different genes were horizontally transferred. Such a pair is said to be linked by a highway of gene sharing. We present a method for inferring such highways. Our method is based on the fact that the evolutionary histories of horizontally transferred genes disagree with the corresponding species phylogeny. Specifically, given a set of gene trees and a trusted rooted species tree, each gene tree is first decomposed into its constituent quartet trees and the quartets that are inconsistent with the species tree are identified. Our method finds a pair of species such that a highway between them explains the largest (normalized) fraction of inconsistent quartets. For a problem on n species and m input quartet trees, we give an efficient O(m + n(2))-time algorithm for detecting highways, which is optimal with respect to the quartets input size. An application of our method to a dataset of 1128 genes from 11 cyanobacterial species, as well as to simulated datasets, illustrates the efficacy of our method.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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