Reconstruction of real and simulated phylogenies based on quartet plurality inference

Eliran Avni, Sagi Snir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Deciphering the history of life on Earth has long been regarded as one of the most central tasks in biology. In past years, widespread discordance between the evolutionary histories of different groups of orthologous genes of prokaryotes have been revealed, primarily due to horizontal gene transfers (HGTs). Nonetheless, evidence that support a strong tree-like signal of evolution have been uncovered, despite the presence of HGT events. Therefore, a challenging task is to distill this tree-like signal from the noise induced by all sources of non-tree-like events. Results: In this work we tackle this question, using real and simulated data. We first tighten a recent related theoretical result in this field. In a simulation study, we infer individual quartet topologies, and then use the inferred quartets to reconstruct simulated species trees. We demonstrate that accurate tree reconstruction is feasible despite surprisingly high rates of HGT. In a real data study, we construct phylogenies of two sets of prokaryotes, and show that our tree reconstruction scheme is comparable with (and complementary better than) other commonly used methods. Conclusions: Using a blend of theoretical and empirical investigations, our study proves the feasibility of accurate quartet-based phylogenetic reconstruction, the vast impact of HGT events notwithstanding.

Original languageEnglish
Article number570
JournalBMC Genomics
StatePublished - 13 Aug 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 The Author(s).


  • Horizontal gene transfer
  • Phylogenetic reconstruction
  • Prokaryotic evolution
  • Quartet plurality
  • Supertree reconstruction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Genetics


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