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Schreiber, Fabian; Pik, Kerstin; Erpenbeck, Dirk; Wörheide, Gert; Morgenstern, Burkhard (2009): OrthoSelect: a protocol for selecting orthologous groups in phylogenomics. In: BMC Bioinformatics, Vol. 10




Background: Phylogenetic studies using expressed sequence tags (EST) are becoming a standard approach to answer evolutionary questions. Such studies are usually based on large sets of newly generated, unannotated, and error-prone EST sequences from different species. A first crucial step in EST-based phylogeny reconstruction is to identify groups of orthologous sequences. From these data sets, appropriate target genes are selected, and redundant sequences are eliminated to obtain suitable sequence sets as input data for tree-reconstruction software. Generating such data sets manually can be very time consuming. Thus, software tools are needed that carry out these steps automatically. Results: We developed a flexible and user-friendly software pipeline, running on desktop machines or computer clusters, that constructs data sets for phylogenomic analyses. It automatically searches assembled EST sequences against databases of orthologous groups (OG), assigns ESTs to these predefined OGs, translates the sequences into proteins, eliminates redundant sequences assigned to the same OG, creates multiple sequence alignments of identified orthologous sequences and offers the possibility to further process this alignment in a last step by excluding potentially homoplastic sites and selecting sufficiently conserved parts. Our software pipeline can be used as it is, but it can also be adapted by integrating additional external programs. This makes the pipeline useful for non-bioinformaticians as well as to bioinformatic experts. The software pipeline is especially designed for ESTs, but it can also handle protein sequences. Conclusion: OrthoSelect is a tool that produces orthologous gene alignments from assembled ESTs. Our tests show that OrthoSelect detects orthologs in EST libraries with high accuracy. In the absence of a gold standard for orthology prediction, we compared predictions by OrthoSelect to a manually created and published phylogenomic data set. Our tool was not only able to rebuild the data set with a specificity of 98%, but it detected four percent more orthologous sequences. Furthermore, the results OrthoSelect produces are in absolut agreement with the results of other programs, but our tool offers a significant speedup and additional functionality, e.g. handling of ESTs, computing sequence alignments, and refining them. To our knowledge, there is currently no fully automated and freely available tool for this purpose. Thus, OrthoSelect is a valuable tool for researchers in the field of phylogenomics who deal with large quantities of EST sequences. OrthoSelect is written in Perl and runs on Linux/Mac OS X.