The breakpoint phylogeny is an optimization problem proposed by Blanchette et al. for reconstructing evolutionary trees from gene order data. These same authors also developed and implemented BPAnalysis , a heuristic method (based upon solving many instances of the travelling salesman problem) for estimating the breakpoint phylogeny. We present a new heuristic for this purpose; although not polynomial-time, our heuristic is much faster in practice than BPAnalysis. We present and discuss the results of experimentation on synthetic datasets and on the flowering plant family Campanulaceae with three methods: our new method, BPAnalysis, and the neighbor-joining method  using several distance estimation techniques. Our preliminary results indicate that, on datasets with slow evolutionary rates and large numbers of genes in comparison with the number of taxa (genomes), all methods recover quite accurate reconstructions of the true evolutionary history (although BPAnalysis is too slow to be practical), but that on datasets where the rate of evolution is high relative to the number of genes, the accuracy of all three methods is poor.
Methods based on the Mutual Information statistic (MI methods) predict structure by looking for statistical correlations between sequence positions in a set of aligned sequences. Although MI methods are often quite effective, these methods ignore the underlying phylogenetic relationships of the sequences they analyze. Thus, they cannot distinguish between correlations due to structural interactions, and spurious correlations resulting from phylogenetic history. In this paper, we introduce a method analogous to MI that incorporates phylogenetic information. We show that this method accurately recovers the structures of well-known RNA molecules. We also demonstrate, with both real and simulated data, that this phylogenetically-based method outperforms standard MI methods, and improves the ability to distinguish interacting from non-interacting positions in RNA. This method is flexible, and may be applied to the prediction of protein structure given the appropriate evolutionary model. Because this method incorporates phylogenetic data, it also has the potential to be improved with the addition of more accurate phylogenetic information, although we show that even approximate phylogenies are helpful.
In this paper we examine the usefulness of two classes of algorithms Distance Methods, Discrete Character Methods (Felsenstein and Felsenstein 2003) widely used in genetics, for predicting the family relationships among a set of related languages and therefore, diachronic language change. Applying these algorithms to the data on the numbers of shared cognates- with-change and changed as well as unchanged cognates for a group of six languages belonging to a Dravidian language sub-family given in Krishnamurti et al. (1983), we observed that the resultant phylogenetic trees are largely in agreement with the linguistic family tree constructed using the comparative method of reconstruction with only a few minor differences. Furthermore, we studied these minor differences and found that they were cases of genuine ambiguity even for a well-trained historical linguist. We evaluated the trees obtained through our experiments using a well-defined criterion and report the results here. We finally conclude that quantitative methods like the ones we examined are quite useful in predicting family relationships among languages. In addition, we conclude that a modest degree of confidence attached to the intuition that there could indeed exist a parallelism between the processes of linguistic and genetic change is not totally misplaced.
Multivariate clustering in astrophysics is a recent development justified by the bigger and bigger surveys of the sky. The phylogenetic approach is probably the most unexpected technique that has appeared for the unsupervised classification of galaxies, stellar populations or globular clusters. On one side, this is a somewhat natural way of classifying astrophysical entities which are all evolving objects. On the other side, several conceptual and practical difficulties arize, such as the hierarchical representation of the astrophysical diversity, the continuous nature of the parameters, and the adequation of the result to the usual practice for the physical interpretation. Most of these have now been solved through the studies of limited samples of stellar clusters and galaxies. Up to now, only the Maximum Parsimony (cladistics) has been used since it is the simplest and most general phylogenetic technique. Probabilistic and network approaches are obvious extensions that should be explored in the future.
Phylogenetic tree reconstruction is traditionally based on multiple sequence alignments (MSAs) and heavily depends on the validity of this information bottleneck. With increasing sequence divergence, the quality of MSAs decays quickly. Alignment-free methods, on the other hand, are based on abstract string comparisons and avoid potential alignment problems. However, in general they are not biologically motivated and ignore our knowledge about the evolution of sequences. Thus, it is still a major open question how to define an evolutionary distance metric between divergent sequences that makes use of indel information and known substitution models without the need for a multiple alignment. Here we propose a new evolutionary distance metric to close this gap. It uses finite-state transducers to create a biologically motivated similarity score which models substitutions and indels, and does not depend on a multiple sequence alignment. The sequence similarity score is defined in analogy to pairwise alignments and additionally has the positive semi-definite property. We describe its derivation and show in simulation studies and real-world examples that it is more accurate in reconstructing phylogenies than competing methods. The result is a new and accurate way of determining evolutionary distances in and beyond the twilight zone of sequence alignments that is suitable for large datasets.