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Open Access Technical Note

NU-IN: Nucleotide evolution and input module for the EvolSimulator genome simulation platform

Katrina M Dlugosch1*, Michael S Barker23 and Loren H Rieseberg13

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Botany, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC V6T1Z4, Canada

2 The Biodiversity Research Centre, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC V6T1Z4, Canada

3 Department of Biology and Center for Genomics and Bioinformatics, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA

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BMC Research Notes 2010, 3:217  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-3-217

Published: 2 August 2010

Abstract

Background

There is increasing demand to test hypotheses that contrast the evolution of genes and gene families among genomes, using simulations that work across these levels of organization. The EvolSimulator program was developed recently to provide a highly flexible platform for forward simulations of amino acid evolution in multiple related lineages of haploid genomes, permitting copy number variation and lateral gene transfer. Synonymous nucleotide evolution is not currently supported, however, and would be highly advantageous for comparisons to full genome, transcriptome, and single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) datasets. In addition, EvolSimulator creates new genomes for each simulation, and does not allow the input of user-specified sequences and gene family information, limiting the incorporation of further biological realism and/or user manipulations of the data.

Findings

We present modified C++ source code for the EvolSimulator platform, which we provide as the extension module NU-IN. With NU-IN, synonymous and non-synonymous nucleotide evolution is fully implemented, and the user has the ability to use real or previously-simulated sequence data to initiate a simulation of one or more lineages. Gene family membership can be optionally specified, as well as gene retention probabilities that model biased gene retention. We provide PERL scripts to assist the user in deriving this information from previous simulations. We demonstrate the features of NU-IN by simulating genome duplication (polyploidy) in the presence of ongoing copy number variation in an evolving lineage. This example is initiated with real genomic data, and produces output that we analyse directly with existing bioinformatic pipelines.

Conclusions

The NU-IN extension module is a publicly available open source software (GNU GPLv3 license) extension to EvolSimulator. With the NU-IN module, users are now able to simulate both drift and selection at the nucleotide, amino acid, copy number, and gene family levels across sets of related genomes, for user-specified starting sequences and associated parameters. These features can be used to generate simulated genomic datasets under an extremely broad array of conditions, and with a high degree of biological realism.