In the field of phylogenetics and comparative genomics, it is important to establish orthologous relationships when comparing homologous sequences. Due to the slight sequence dissimilarity between orthologs and paralogs, it is prone to regarding paralogs as orthologs. For this reason, several methods based on evolutionary distance, phylogeny and BLAST have tried to detect orthologs with more precision. Depending on their algorithmic implementations, each of these methods sometimes has increased false negative or false positive rates. Here, we developed a novel algorithm for orthology detection that uses a distance method based on the phylogenetic criterion of minimum evolution. Our algorithm assumes that sets of sequences exhibiting orthologous relationships are evolutionarily less costly than sets that include one or more paralogous relationships. Calculation of evolutionary cost requires the reconstruction of a neighbor-joining (NJ) tree, but calculations are unaffected by the topology of any given NJ tree. Unlike tree reconciliation, our algorithm appears free from the problem of incorrect topologies of species and gene trees. The reliability of the algorithm was tested in a comparative analysis with two other orthology detection methods using 95 manually curated KOG datasets and 21 experimentally verified EXProt datasets. Sensitivity and specificity estimates indicate that the concept of minimum evolution could be valuable for the detection of orthologs.
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