The relative sensitivity of different alignment methods and character codings in sensitivity analysis

Simmons MP, Müller KF, Webb CT

Research article (journal)


Sensitivity analysis provides a way to measure robustness of clades in sequence-based phylogenetic analyses to variation in alignment parameters rather than measuring their branch support. We compared three different approaches to multiple sequence alignment in the context of sensitivity analysis: progressive pairwise alignment, as implemented in MUSCLE; simultaneous multiple alignment of sequence fragments, as implemented in DCA; and direct optimization followed by generation of the implied alignment(s), as implemented in POY. We set out to determine the relative sensitivity of these three alignment methods using rDNA sequences and randomly generated sequences. A total of 36 parameter sets were used to create the alignments, varying the transition, transversion, and gap costs. Tree searches were performed using four different character-coding and weighting approaches: the cost function used for alignment or equally weighted parsimony with gap positions treated as missing data, separate characters, or as fifth states. POY was found to be as sensitive, or more sensitive, to variation in alignment parameters than DCA and MUSCLE for the three empirical datasets, and POY was found to be more sensitive than MUSCLE, which in turn was found to be as sensitive, or more sensitive, than DCA when applied to the randomly generated sequences when sensitivity was measured using the averaged jackknife values. When significant differences in relative sensitivity were found between the different ways of weighting character-state changes, equally weighted parsimony, for all three ways of treating gapped positions, was less sensitive than applying the same cost function used in alignment for phylogenetic analysis. When branch support is incorporated into the sensitivity criterion, our results favour the use of simultaneous alignment and progressive pairwise alignment using the similarity criterion over direct optimization followed by using the implied alignment(s) to calculate branch support.

Details zur Publikation

Pages: 12
Release year: 2008
Language in which the publication is writtenEnglish