Time and memory efficient likelihood-based tree searches on phylogenomic alignments with missing data

Bioinformatics. 2010 Jun 15;26(12):i132-9. doi: 10.1093/bioinformatics/btq205.


Motivation: The current molecular data explosion poses new challenges for large-scale phylogenomic analyses that can comprise hundreds or even thousands of genes. A property that characterizes phylogenomic datasets is that they tend to be gappy, i.e. can contain taxa with (many and disparate) missing genes. In current phylogenomic analyses, this type of alignment gappyness that is induced by missing data frequently exceeds 90%. We present and implement a generally applicable mechanism that allows for reducing memory footprints of likelihood-based [maximum likelihood (ML) or Bayesian] phylogenomic analyses proportional to the amount of missing data in the alignment. We also introduce a set of algorithmic rules to efficiently conduct tree searches via subtree pruning and re-grafting moves using this mechanism.

Results: On a large phylogenomic DNA dataset with 2177 taxa, 68 genes and a gappyness of 90%, we achieve a memory footprint reduction from 9 GB down to 1 GB, a speedup for optimizing ML model parameters of 11, and accelerate the Subtree Pruning Regrafting tree search phase by factor 16. Thus, our approach can be deployed to improve efficiency for the two most important resources, CPU time and memory, by up to one order of magnitude.

Availability: Current open-source version of RAxML v7.2.6 available at http://wwwkramer.in.tum.de/exelixis/software.html.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Genomics / methods*
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Phylogeny*
  • Sequence Alignment / methods*