GPUDePiCt: A Parallel Implementation of a Clustering Algorithm for Computing Degenerate Primers on Graphics Processing Units

IEEE/ACM Trans Comput Biol Bioinform. Mar-Apr 2015;12(2):445-54. doi: 10.1109/TCBB.2014.2355231.


In order to make multiple copies of a target sequence in the laboratory, the technique of Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) requires the design of "primers", which are short fragments of nucleotides complementary to the flanking regions of the target sequence. If the same primer is to amplify multiple closely related target sequences, then it is necessary to make the primers "degenerate", which would allow it to hybridize to target sequences with a limited amount of variability that may have been caused by mutations. However, the PCR technique can only allow a limited amount of degeneracy, and therefore the design of degenerate primers requires the identification of reasonably well-conserved regions in the input sequences. We take an existing algorithm for designing degenerate primers that is based on clustering and parallelize it in a web-accessible software package GPUDePiCt, using a shared memory model and the computing power of Graphics Processing Units (GPUs). We test our implementation on large sets of aligned sequences from the human genome and show a multi-fold speedup for clustering using our hybrid GPU/CPU implementation over a pure CPU approach for these sequences, which consist of more than 7,500 nucleotides. We also demonstrate that this speedup is consistent over larger numbers and longer lengths of aligned sequences.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms*
  • Cluster Analysis*
  • Computational Biology / methods*
  • Computer Graphics
  • DNA Primers
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Software*


  • DNA Primers