Improving the quality of multiple sequence alignment




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Multiple sequence alignment is an important bioinformatics problem, with applications in diverse types of biological analysis, such as structure prediction, phylogenetic analysis and critical sites identification. In recent years, the quality of multiple sequence alignment was improved a lot by newly developed methods, although it remains a difficult task for constructing accurate alignments, especially for divergent sequences. In this dissertation, we propose three new methods (PSAlign, ISPAlign, and NRAlign) for further improving the quality of multiple sequences alignment. In PSAlign, we propose an alternative formulation of multiple sequence alignment based on the idea of finding a multiple alignment which preserves all the pairwise alignments specified by edges of a given tree. In contrast with traditional NP-hard formulations, our preserving alignment formulation can be solved in polynomial time without using a heuristic, while still retaining very good performance when compared to traditional heuristics. In ISPAlign, by using additional hits from database search of the input sequences, a few strategies have been proposed to significantly improve alignment accuracy, including the construction of profiles from the hits while performing profile alignment, the inclusion of high scoring hits into the input sequences, the use of intermediate sequence search to link distant homologs, and the use of secondary structure information. In NRAlign, we observe that it is possible to further improve alignment accuracy by taking into account alignment of neighboring residues when aligning two residues, thus making better use of horizontal information. By modifying existing multiple alignment algorithms to make use of horizontal information, we show that this strategy is able to consistently improve over existing algorithms on all the benchmarks that are commonly used to measure alignment accuracy.