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Appl Environ Microbiol. 1995 Apr;61(4):1240-5.

Evaluation of nearest-neighbor methods for detection of chimeric small-subunit rRNA sequences.

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Department of Mathematical Sciences, Montana State University, Bozeman 59717, USA.
MT St U, Bozeman


Detection of chimeric artifacts formed when PCR is used to retrieve naturally occurring small-subunit (SSU) rRNA sequences may rely on demonstrating that different sequence domains have different phylogenetic affiliations. We evaluated the CHECK_CHIMERA method of the Ribosomal Database Project and another method which we developed, both based on determining nearest neighbors of different sequence domains, for their ability to discern artificially generated SSU rRNA chimeras from authentic Ribosomal Database Project sequences. The reliability of both methods decreases when the parental sequences which contribute to chimera formation are more than 82 to 84% similar. Detection is also complicated by the occurrence of authentic SSU rRNA sequences that behave like chimeras. We developed a naive statistical test based on CHECK_CHIMERA output and used it to evaluate previously reported SSU rRNA chimeras. Application of this test also suggests that chimeras might be formed by retrieving SSU rRNAs as cDNA. The amount of uncertainty associated with nearest-neighbor analyses indicates that such tests alone are insufficient and that better methods are needed.

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