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This article is part of the supplement: Selected articles from the 7th International Symposium on Bioinformatics Research and Applications (ISBRA'11)

Open Access Proceedings

Algorithms: simultaneous error-correction and rooting for gene tree reconciliation and the gene duplication problem

Pawel Górecki1* and Oliver Eulenstein2

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Informatics, University of Warsaw, Warsaw, 02-097, Poland

2 Department of Computer Science, Iowa State University, Ames, 50011, USA

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BMC Bioinformatics 2012, 13(Suppl 10):S14  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-13-S10-S14

Published: 25 June 2012



Evolutionary methods are increasingly challenged by the wealth of fast growing resources of genomic sequence information. Evolutionary events, like gene duplication, loss, and deep coalescence, account more then ever for incongruence between gene trees and the actual species tree. Gene tree reconciliation is addressing this fundamental problem by invoking the minimum number of gene duplication and losses that reconcile a rooted gene tree with a rooted species tree. However, the reconciliation process is highly sensitive to topological error or wrong rooting of the gene tree, a condition that is not met by most gene trees in practice. Thus, despite the promises of gene tree reconciliation, its applicability in practice is severely limited.


We introduce the problem of reconciling unrooted and erroneous gene trees by simultaneously rooting and error-correcting them, and describe an efficient algorithm for this problem. Moreover, we introduce an error-corrected version of the gene duplication problem, a standard application of gene tree reconciliation. We introduce an effective heuristic for our error-corrected version of the gene duplication problem, given that the original version of this problem is NP-hard. Our experimental results suggest that our error-correcting approaches for unrooted input trees can significantly improve on the accuracy of gene tree reconciliation, and the species tree inference under the gene duplication problem. Furthermore, the efficiency of our algorithm for error-correcting reconciliation is capable of handling truly large-scale phylogenetic studies.


Our presented error-correction approach is a crucial step towards making gene tree reconciliation more robust, and thus to improve on the accuracy of applications that fundamentally rely on gene tree reconciliation, like the inference of gene-duplication supertrees.