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MUSCLE: a multiple sequence alignment method with reduced time and space complexity

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BMC Bioinformatics

BioMed Central

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      BackgroundIn a previous paper, we introduced MUSCLE, a new program for creating multiple alignments of protein sequences, giving a brief summary of the algorithm and showing MUSCLE to achieve the highest scores reported to date on four alignment accuracy benchmarks. Here we present a more complete discussion of the algorithm, describing several previously unpublished techniques that improve biological accuracy and / or computational complexity. We introduce a new option, MUSCLE-fast, designed for high-throughput applications. We also describe a new protocol for evaluating objective functions that align two profiles.ResultsWe compare the speed and accuracy of MUSCLE with CLUSTALW, Progressive POA and the MAFFT script FFTNS1, the fastest previously published program known to the author. Accuracy is measured using four benchmarks: BAliBASE, PREFAB, SABmark and SMART. We test three variants that offer highest accuracy (MUSCLE with default settings), highest speed (MUSCLE-fast), and a carefully chosen compromise between the two (MUSCLE-prog). We find MUSCLE-fast to be the fastest algorithm on all test sets, achieving average alignment accuracy similar to CLUSTALW in times that are typically two to three orders of magnitude less. MUSCLE-fast is able to align 1,000 sequences of average length 282 in 21 seconds on a current desktop computer.ConclusionsMUSCLE offers a range of options that provide improved speed and / or alignment accuracy compared with currently available programs. MUSCLE is freely available at .

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      Most cited references 48

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      Gapped BLAST and PSI-BLAST: a new generation of protein database search programs.

      The BLAST programs are widely used tools for searching protein and DNA databases for sequence similarities. For protein comparisons, a variety of definitional, algorithmic and statistical refinements described here permits the execution time of the BLAST programs to be decreased substantially while enhancing their sensitivity to weak similarities. A new criterion for triggering the extension of word hits, combined with a new heuristic for generating gapped alignments, yields a gapped BLAST program that runs at approximately three times the speed of the original. In addition, a method is introduced for automatically combining statistically significant alignments produced by BLAST into a position-specific score matrix, and searching the database using this matrix. The resulting Position-Specific Iterated BLAST (PSI-BLAST) program runs at approximately the same speed per iteration as gapped BLAST, but in many cases is much more sensitive to weak but biologically relevant sequence similarities. PSI-BLAST is used to uncover several new and interesting members of the BRCT superfamily.
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        MUSCLE: multiple sequence alignment with high accuracy and high throughput.

         Robert Edgar (2004)
        We describe MUSCLE, a new computer program for creating multiple alignments of protein sequences. Elements of the algorithm include fast distance estimation using kmer counting, progressive alignment using a new profile function we call the log-expectation score, and refinement using tree-dependent restricted partitioning. The speed and accuracy of MUSCLE are compared with T-Coffee, MAFFT and CLUSTALW on four test sets of reference alignments: BAliBASE, SABmark, SMART and a new benchmark, PREFAB. MUSCLE achieves the highest, or joint highest, rank in accuracy on each of these sets. Without refinement, MUSCLE achieves average accuracy statistically indistinguishable from T-Coffee and MAFFT, and is the fastest of the tested methods for large numbers of sequences, aligning 5000 sequences of average length 350 in 7 min on a current desktop computer. The MUSCLE program, source code and PREFAB test data are freely available at http://www.drive5. com/muscle.
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          The neighbor-joining method: a new method for reconstructing phylogenetic trees.

           N Saitou,  M Nei (1987)
          A new method called the neighbor-joining method is proposed for reconstructing phylogenetic trees from evolutionary distance data. The principle of this method is to find pairs of operational taxonomic units (OTUs [= neighbors]) that minimize the total branch length at each stage of clustering of OTUs starting with a starlike tree. The branch lengths as well as the topology of a parsimonious tree can quickly be obtained by using this method. Using computer simulation, we studied the efficiency of this method in obtaining the correct unrooted tree in comparison with that of five other tree-making methods: the unweighted pair group method of analysis, Farris's method, Sattath and Tversky's method, Li's method, and Tateno et al.'s modified Farris method. The new, neighbor-joining method and Sattath and Tversky's method are shown to be generally better than the other methods.

            Author and article information

            [1 ]Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, 461 Koshland Hall, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-3102, USA
            BMC Bioinformatics
            BMC Bioinformatics
            BioMed Central (London )
            19 August 2004
            : 5
            : 113
            Copyright © 2004 Edgar; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

            This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


            Bioinformatics & Computational biology


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