Non-bifurcating phylogenetic tree inference via the adaptive LASSO

Zhang, Cheng, Dinh, Vu, Matsen, Frederick A. IV Machine Learning 

Phylogenetic tree inference using deep DNA sequencing is reshaping our understanding of rapidly evolving systems, such as the within-host battle between viruses and the immune system. Densely sampled phylogenetic trees can contain special features, including "sampled ancestors" in which we sequence a genotype along with its direct descendants, and "polytomies" in which multiple descendants arise simultaneously. These features are apparent after identifying zero-length branches in the tree. However, current maximum-likelihood based approaches are not capable of revealing such zero-length branches. In this paper, we find these zero-length branches by introducing adaptive-LASSO-type regularization estimators to phylogenetics, deriving their properties, and showing regularization to be a practically useful approach for phylogenetics.

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