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Open Access Methodology article

Split-based computation of majority-rule supertrees

Anne Kupczok

Author Affiliations

Center for Integrative Bioinformatics Vienna, Max F. Perutz Laboratories, University of Vienna, Medical University of Vienna, University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna, Dr. Bohr-Gasse 9, A-1030 Vienna, Austria

Institute of Science and Technology, Austria, Am Campus 1, 3400 Klosterneuburg, Austria

BMC Evolutionary Biology 2011, 11:205  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-11-205

Published: 13 July 2011

Abstract

Background

Supertree methods combine overlapping input trees into a larger supertree. Here, I consider split-based supertree methods that first extract the split information of the input trees and subsequently combine this split information into a phylogeny. Well known split-based supertree methods are matrix representation with parsimony and matrix representation with compatibility. Combining input trees on the same taxon set, as in the consensus setting, is a well-studied task and it is thus desirable to generalize consensus methods to supertree methods.

Results

Here, three variants of majority-rule (MR) supertrees that generalize majority-rule consensus trees are investigated. I provide simple formulas for computing the respective score for bifurcating input- and supertrees. These score computations, together with a heuristic tree search minmizing the scores, were implemented in the python program PluMiST (Plus- and Minus SuperTrees) available from http://www.cibiv.at/software/plumist webcite. The different MR methods were tested by simulation and on real data sets. The search heuristic was successful in combining compatible input trees. When combining incompatible input trees, especially one variant, MR(-) supertrees, performed well.

Conclusions

The presented framework allows for an efficient score computation of three majority-rule supertree variants and input trees. I combined the score computation with a heuristic search over the supertree space. The implementation was tested by simulation and on real data sets and showed promising results. Especially the MR(-) variant seems to be a reasonable score for supertree reconstruction. Generalizing these computations to multifurcating trees is an open problem, which may be tackled using this framework.