On pairwise distances and median score of three genomes under DCJ

BMC Bioinformatics. 2012;13 Suppl 19(Suppl 19):S1. doi: 10.1186/1471-2105-13-S19-S1. Epub 2012 Dec 19.


In comparative genomics, the rearrangement distance between two genomes (equal the minimal number of genome rearrangements required to transform them into a single genome) is often used for measuring their evolutionary remoteness. Generalization of this measure to three genomes is known as the median score (while a resulting genome is called median genome). In contrast to the rearrangement distance between two genomes which can be computed in linear time, computing the median score for three genomes is NP-hard. This inspires a quest for simpler and faster approximations for the median score, the most natural of which appears to be the halved sum of pairwise distances which in fact represents a lower bound for the median score.In this work, we study relationship and interplay of pairwise distances between three genomes and their median score under the model of Double-Cut-and-Join (DCJ) rearrangements. Most remarkably we show that while a rearrangement may change the sum of pairwise distances by at most 2 (and thus change the lower bound by at most 1), even the most "powerful" rearrangements in this respect that increase the lower bound by 1 (by moving one genome farther away from each of the other two genomes), which we call strong, do not necessarily affect the median score. This observation implies that the two measures are not as well-correlated as one's intuition may suggest.We further prove that the median score attains the lower bound exactly on the triples of genomes that can be obtained from a single genome with strong rearrangements. While the sum of pairwise distances with the factor 2/3 represents an upper bound for the median score, its tightness remains unclear. Nonetheless, we show that the difference of the median score and its lower bound is not bounded by a constant.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Computer Simulation / statistics & numerical data*
  • DNA Breaks, Double-Stranded*
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Gene Rearrangement*
  • Genome / genetics*
  • Models, Genetic*