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AlignMiner: a Web-based tool for detection of divergent regions in multiple sequence alignments of conserved sequences

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Author(s): Guerrero Darío | Bautista Rocío | Villalobos David | Cantón Francisco | Claros M Gonzalo

Journal: Algorithms for Molecular Biology
ISSN 1748-7188

Volume: 5;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 24;
Date: 2010;
Original page

ABSTRACT
Abstract Background Multiple sequence alignments are used to study gene or protein function, phylogenetic relations, genome evolution hypotheses and even gene polymorphisms. Virtually without exception, all available tools focus on conserved segments or residues. Small divergent regions, however, are biologically important for specific quantitative polymerase chain reaction, genotyping, molecular markers and preparation of specific antibodies, and yet have received little attention. As a consequence, they must be selected empirically by the researcher. AlignMiner has been developed to fill this gap in bioinformatic analyses. Results AlignMiner is a Web-based application for detection of conserved and divergent regions in alignments of conserved sequences, focusing particularly on divergence. It accepts alignments (protein or nucleic acid) obtained using any of a variety of algorithms, which does not appear to have a significant impact on the final results. AlignMiner uses different scoring methods for assessing conserved/divergent regions, Entropy being the method that provides the highest number of regions with the greatest length, and Weighted being the most restrictive. Conserved/divergent regions can be generated either with respect to the consensus sequence or to one master sequence. The resulting data are presented in a graphical interface developed in AJAX, which provides remarkable user interaction capabilities. Users do not need to wait until execution is complete and can.even inspect their results on a different computer. Data can be downloaded onto a user disk, in standard formats. In silico and experimental proof-of-concept cases have shown that AlignMiner can be successfully used to designing specific polymerase chain reaction primers as well as potential epitopes for antibodies. Primer design is assisted by a module that deploys several oligonucleotide parameters for designing primers "on the fly". Conclusions AlignMiner can be used to reliably detect divergent regions via several scoring methods that provide different levels of selectivity. Its predictions have been verified by experimental means. Hence, it is expected that its usage will save researchers' time and ensure an objective selection of the best-possible divergent region when closely related sequences are analysed. AlignMiner is freely available at http://www.scbi.uma.es/alignminer.
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