Background: Alignment-free (AF) sequence comparison is attracting persistent interest driven by data-intensive applications. Hence, many AF procedures have been proposed in recent years, but a lack of a clearly defined benchmarking consensus hampers their performance assessment.
Results: Here, we present a community resource (http://afproject.org) to establish standards for comparing alignment-free approaches across different areas of sequence-based research. We characterize 74 AF methods available in 24 software tools for five research applications, namely, protein sequence classification, gene tree inference, regulatory element detection, genome-based phylogenetic inference, and reconstruction of species trees under horizontal gene transfer and recombination events.
Conclusion: The interactive web service allows researchers to explore the performance of alignment-free tools relevant to their data types and analytical goals. It also allows method developers to assess their own algorithms and compare them with current state-of-the-art tools, accelerating the development of new, more accurate AF solutions.
Keywords: Alignment-free; Benchmark; Horizontal gene transfer; Sequence comparison; Web service; Whole-genome phylogeny.