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NcDNAlign: Plausible multiple alignments of non-protein-coding genomic sequences

: Rose, D.; Hertel, J.; Reiche, K.; Stadler, P.F.; Hackermüller, J.


Genomics 92 (2008), No.1, pp.65-74
ISSN: 0888-7543
Journal Article
Fraunhofer IZI ()
genome annotation; non-coding RNA; ncRNA; multiple sequence alignment; ultra-conserved element; UCE; UCR; CNE; ultra-conserved region

Genome-wide multiple sequence alignments (MSAs) are a necessary prerequisite for an increasingly diverse collection of comparative genomic approaches. Here we present a versatile method that generates high-quality MSAs for non-protein-coding sequences. The NcDNAlign pipeline combines pairwise BLAST alignments to create initial MSAs, which are then locally improved and trimmed. The program is optimized for speed and hence is particulary well-suited to pilot studies. We demonstrate the practical use of NcDNAlign in three case studies: the search for ncRNAs in gammaproteobacteria and the analysis of conserved noncoding DNA in nematodes and teleost fish, in the latter case focusing on the fate of duplicated ultra-conserved regions. Compared to the currently widely used genome-wide alignment program TBA, our program results in a 20- to 30-fold reduction of CPU time necessary to generate gammaproteobacterial alignments. A showcase application of bacterial ncRNA prediction based on alignments of both algorithms results in similar sensitivity, false discovery rates, and up to 100 putatively novel ncRNA structures. Similar findings hold for our application of NcDNAlign to the identification of ultra-conserved regions in nematodes and teleosts. Both approaches yield conserved sequences of unknown function, result in novel evolutionary insights into conservation patterns among these genomes, and manifest the benefits of an efficient and reliable genome-wide alignment package. The software is available under the GNU Public License at