Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2015

Author's School

School of Engineering & Applied Science

Author's Department

Computer Science & Engineering

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



With the development of new sequencing techniques, whole genomes of many species have become available. This huge amount of data gives rise to new opportunities and challenges. These new sequences provide valuable information on relationships among species, e.g. genome recombination and conservation. One of the principal ways to investigate such information is multiple sequence alignment (MSA). Currently, there is large amount of MSA data on the internet, such as the UCSC genome database, but how to effectively use this information to solve classical and new problems is still an area lacking of exploration. In this thesis, we explored how to use this information in four problems, i.e. sequence orthology search problem, multiple alignment improvement problem, short read mapping problem, and genome rearrangement inference problem.

For the first problem, we developed a EM algorithm to iteratively align a query with a multiple alignment database with the information from a phylogeny relating the query species and the species in the multiple alignment. We also infer the query's location in the phylogeny. We showed that by doing alignment and phylogeny inference together, we can improve the accuracies for both problems.

For the second problem, we developed an optimization algorithm to iteratively refine the multiple alignment quality. Experiment results showed our algorithm is very stable in term of resulting alignments. The results showed that our method is more accurate than existing methods, i.e. Mafft, Clustal-O, and Mavid, on test data from three sets of species from the UCSC genome database.

For the third problem, we developed a model, PhyMap, to align a read to a multiple alignment allowing mismatches and indels. PhyMap computes local alignments of a query sequence against a fixed multiple-genome alignment of closely related species. PhyMap uses a known phylogenetic tree on the species in the multiple alignment to improve the quality of its computed alignments while also estimating the placement of the query on this tree. Both theoretical computation and experiment results show that our model can differentiate between orthologous and paralogous alignments better than other popular short read mapping tools (BWA, BOWTIE and BLAST).

For the fourth problem, we gave a simple genome recombination model which can express insertions, deletions, inversions, translocations and inverted translocations on aligned genome segments. We also developed an MCMC algorithm to infer the order of the query segments. We proved that using any Euclidian metrics to measure distance between two sequence orders in the tree optimization goal function will lead to a degenerated solution where the inferred order will be the order of one of the leaf nodes. We also gave a graph-based formulation of the problem which can represent the probability distribution of the order of the query sequences.


English (en)


Justin Fay

Committee Members

Justin Fay


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