Bioinformatics Algorithms: An Active Learning Approach

Chapter 9: How Do We Locate Disease-Causing Mutations?

(Coursera Week 1)

Does amalgamation of the reference human genome from various individuals causes problems? Can’t such amalgamation produce a phenotype that does not occur naturally?

Yes, the reference human genome is a mosaic of various genomes that does not match the genome of any individual human. Since various human genomes differ by only 0.1%, however, the amalgamation does not cause significant problems.

How does the repeated triplet "CAG" affect the severity of Huntington's disease?

Huntington's disease is a rare genetic disease in that it is attributable to a single gene, called Huntingtin. This gene includes a trinucleotide repeat "...CAGCAGCAG..." that varies in length. Individuals with fewer than 26 copies of "CAG" in their Huntingtin gene are classified as unaffected by Huntington's disease, whereas individuals with more than 35 copies carry a large risk of the disease, and individuals with more than 40 copies will be afflicted. Moreover, an unaffected person can pass the disease to a child if the normal gene mutates and increases the repeat length. The reason why many repeated copies of "CAG" in Huntingtin leads to disease is that this gene produces a protein with many copies of glutamine ("CAG" codes for glutamine), which increases the decay rate of neurons.

Would it be better to use multiple reference genomes instead of a single reference genome?

Perhaps in theory, but in practice, biologists still use one reference genome, since comparison against thousands of reference genomes would be time-consuming.

What is the point of appending the "$" sign to Text when we construct SuffixTrie(Text)?

Construct the suffix trie for "papa" and you will see why we have added the "$" sign – without the "$" sign, the suffix "pa" will become a part of the path spelled by the suffix "papa".

What are the edge labels in the suffix tree for "panamabananas$"?

The suffix tree for "panamabananas$" reproduced below contains 17 edges with the following labels (note that different edges may have the same labels):


How does storing SuffixTree(Text) require memory on the order of 20·|Text| if the number of nodes in the suffix tree does not exceed 2·|Text|?

In addition to storing the nodes and edges of the suffix tree, we also need to store the information at the edge labels. Storing this information takes most of the memory allocated for the suffix tree.

How can I construct a suffix tree in linear time?

Suffix trees were introduced by Weiner, 1973. However, the original linear-time algorithm for building the suffix tree was extremely complex. Although the Weiner algorithm was greatly simplified by Esko Ukkonen in 1995, it is still non-trivial. Check out this excellent StackOverflow post by Johannes Goller if you are interested in seeing a full explanation.

(Coursera Week 2)

Is it possible to construct the Burrows-Wheeler Transform in linear time?

Our naive approach to constructing BWT(Text) requires constructing the matrix M(Text) of all cyclic rotations, which requires O(|Text|2) time and space. However, there exist algorithms constructing BWT(Text) in linear time. One such algorithm first constructs the suffix array of Text in linear time and then uses this suffix array to construct BWT(Text).

What is special about the final column of the Burrows-Wheeler matrix? Why not work with some other column?

In short, the last column is the only invertible column of the Burrows-Wheeler matrix. In other words, it is the only column from which we are always able to reconstruct the original string Text.

Doesn't the Last-to-First mapping require a lot of memory?

In practice, it is possible to compute the Last-to-First mapping of a given position of BWT(Text) with very low runtime and memory using the array holding the first occurrence of each symbol in the sorted string. Unfortunately, the analysis is beyond the scope of this class. For details, please see Ferragina and Manzini, 2000 (click here for full text).

Why does FirstColumn appear among the arguments in BWMatching if it is never used in the BWMatching pseudocode?

We indeed do not use FirstColumn in BWMatching. Although it seemingly does not make sense, we prefer this because we use FirstColumn in a modification of of BWMatching in a later section.

Why do the first and last occurrences of symbol in the range of positions from top to bottom in LastColumn have respective ranks Countsymbol(top, LastColumn)+1 and Countsymbol(bottom+1, LastColumn)?

Given an index ind in the array LastColumn (varying from 0 to 13 in the example shown in the text), the number of occurrences of symbol before position ind (i.e., in positions with indices less than ind) is defined by Countsymbol(ind, LastColumn). Since the number of occurrences of symbol starting before position ind is equal to Countsymbol(ind, LastColumn), the rank of the first occurrence of symbol starting from position ind is

Countsymbol(ind, LastColumn) + 1

To be more precise, it is Countsymbol(ind, LastColumn) + 1 if symbol occurs in LastColumn at or after position ind.

Similarly, the rank of the last occurrence of symbol starting before or at position ind is given by

Countsymbol(ind + 1, LastColumn)

For example, when ind = 5, the rank of the first occurrence of "n" starting at position 5 is Count"n"(5, LastColumn) + 1 = 1 + 1 = 2. On the other hand, the rank of the last occurrence of "p" starting before or at position ind is Count"p"(6, LastColumn) = 1.

Is BetterBWMatching guaranteed to terminate?

The condition "topbottom" is a loop invariant, or a property that holds before and after each iteration of the loop. In this case, if pattern matches have been found, the number of matches is equal to bottom - top + 1. If pattern matches are not found, then at some point in the loop, bottom becomes equal to top - 1, in which case topbottom and the loop terminates.

Would BetterBWMatching work properly if Pattern contains symbols that do not appear in Text?

No; however, you can easily modify BetterBWMatching by first checking whether Pattern contains symbols not present in Text and immediately returning 0 in this case.

In the main text, you illustrated walking backward in BetterBWMatching with the pattern "ana", which is a palindrome. How can we match a non-palindromic pattern?

Try "walking backwards" to find the one pattern match of "ban" in "panamabananas$".

(Coursera Week 3)

It seems as though the partial suffix array will require using the LastToFirst mapping. But we got rid of the LastToFirst mapping in order to speed up pattern matching and save memory! Why do we do this?

We indeed got rid of the LastToFirst array; however, in the same section we saw how the Count arrays can be used as a substitute for LastToFirst.

What modifications of BetterBWMatching are needed to make it work with checkpoint arrays instead of count arrays?

To explain how to modify BetterBWMatching for working with checkpoint arrays, we explain how to quickly compute each value in the count array given the checkpoint arrays and LastColumn.

To compute Countsymbol(i, LastColumn), we represent i as t·K + j, where j < K. We can then compute Countsymbol(i, LastColumn) as Countsymbol(t·K, LastColumn) (contained in the checkpoint arrays) plus the number of occurrences of symbol in positions t·K + 1 to i in LastColumn.

How do biologists determine the maximum allowable number of mismatches while mapping reads to the human genome?

Biologists usually set a small threshold for the maximum number of mismatches, since otherwise read mapping becomes too slow.

Can reads that "fall off the edges of the text" form approximate matches?

For example, does Pattern = "TTACTG" match Text = "ACTGCTGCTG" with d = 2 mismatches? Not according to the statement of the Multiple Approximate Pattern Matching Problem, since there is no starting position in Text where Pattern appears as a substring with at most d mismatches.

How does BLAST extend the seeds that it identifies? Does it not require constructing an optimal alignment, thus significantly slowing down the algorithm?

BLAST does construct an alignment in a narrow band starting from each end of the seed. However, since the band is narrow, the algorithm for constructing this alignment is fast.

How can I modify the approximate pattern matching with the Burrows-Wheeler transform to account for patterns whose last symbols do not appear in Text?

The algorithm illustrated in the epilogue would fail to find an approximate match of "nad" because the final symbol of "nad" does not appear in "panamabananas$". To address this complication, we can modify the algorithm for finding a pattern of length m with up to k mismatches as follows.

We first run the algorithm described in the main text to find all approximate instances of a Pattern of length k against Text. However, this algorithm does not actually find all approximate matches of Pattern – since we do not allow mismatched strings in the early stages of BetterBWMatching, we miss those matches where the last letter of Pattern does not match Text. To fix this shortcoming, we can simply find all locations in Text where the prefix of Pattern of length k - 1 has d - 1 mismatches. Yet this algorithm fails to find matches where the last two letters of Pattern do not match Text. Thus, we need to run the algorithm again, finding all locations in Text where the prefix of Pattern of length k - 2 has d - 2 mismatches. We then find all locations in Text where the prefix of Pattern of length k - 3 occurs with d - 3 mismatches, and so on, finally finding all locations in Text where the prefix of Pattern of length k - d occurs exactly.

When we approximately match patterns with the Burrows-Wheeler transform, we consider possibilities of mismatches in all positions but the first one. Wouldn't this strategy fail to match a read with an error at the first position?

Yes, this strategy would fail to match a read with an error at the first position. However, as noted in the main text, if we start considering mismatches at the first position, the running time will significantly increase. As is, the running time explodes with the increase in the maximum number of errors. If one wants to alow mismatches at the first position, a more sensible strategy would be to trim the first position of the read.