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Open Access Research article

Genome BLAST distance phylogenies inferred from whole plastid and whole mitochondrion genome sequences

Alexander F Auch1*, Stefan R Henz2, Barbara R Holland3 and Markus Göker4

Author Affiliations

1 Center for Bioinformatics (ZBIT), Sand 14, Tübingen, University of Tübingen, Germany

2 Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, Spemannstrasse 37-39, Tübingen, Germany

3 Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Ecology and Evolution, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand

4 Organismic Botany/Mycology, Auf der Morgenstelle 1, Tübingen, University of Tübingen, Germany

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BMC Bioinformatics 2006, 7:350  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-7-350

Published: 19 July 2006

Abstract

Background

Phylogenetic methods which do not rely on multiple sequence alignments are important tools in inferring trees directly from completely sequenced genomes. Here, we extend the recently described Genome BLAST Distance Phylogeny (GBDP) strategy to compute phylogenetic trees from all completely sequenced plastid genomes currently available and from a selection of mitochondrial genomes representing the major eukaryotic lineages. BLASTN, TBLASTX, or combinations of both are used to locate high-scoring segment pairs (HSPs) between two sequences from which pairwise similarities and distances are computed in different ways resulting in a total of 96 GBDP variants. The suitability of these distance formulae for phylogeny reconstruction is directly estimated by computing a recently described measure of "treelikeness", the so-called δ value, from the respective distance matrices. Additionally, we compare the trees inferred from these matrices using UPGMA, NJ, BIONJ, FastME, or STC, respectively, with the NCBI taxonomy tree of the taxa under study.

Results

Our results indicate that, at this taxonomic level, plastid genomes are much more valuable for inferring phylogenies than are mitochondrial genomes, and that distances based on breakpoints are of little use. Distances based on the proportion of "matched" HSP length to average genome length were best for tree estimation. Additionally we found that using TBLASTX instead of BLASTN and, particularly, combining TBLASTX and BLASTN leads to a small but significant increase in accuracy. Other factors do not significantly affect the phylogenetic outcome. The BIONJ algorithm results in phylogenies most in accordance with the current NCBI taxonomy, with NJ and FastME performing insignificantly worse, and STC performing as well if applied to high quality distance matrices. δ values are found to be a reliable predictor of phylogenetic accuracy.

Conclusion

Using the most treelike distance matrices, as judged by their δ values, distance methods are able to recover all major plant lineages, and are more in accordance with Apicomplexa organelles being derived from "green" plastids than from plastids of the "red" type. GBDP-like methods can be used to reliably infer phylogenies from different kinds of genomic data. A framework is established to further develop and improve such methods. δ values are a topology-independent tool of general use for the development and assessment of distance methods for phylogenetic inference.