Estimation of duplication history under a stochastic model for tandem repeats

Farzad Farnoud, Moshe Schwartz, Jehoshua Bruck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Background: Tandem repeat sequences are common in the genomes of many organisms and are known to cause important phenomena such as gene silencing and rapid morphological changes. Due to the presence of multiple copies of the same pattern in tandem repeats and their high variability, they contain a wealth of information about the mutations that have led to their formation. The ability to extract this information can enhance our understanding of evolutionary mechanisms. Results: We present a stochastic model for the formation of tandem repeats via tandem duplication and substitution mutations. Based on the analysis of this model, we develop a method for estimating the relative mutation rates of duplications and substitutions, as well as the total number of mutations, in the history of a tandem repeat sequence. We validate our estimation method via Monte Carlo simulation and show that it outperforms the state-of-the-art algorithm for discovering the duplication history. We also apply our method to tandem repeat sequences in the human genome, where it demonstrates the different behaviors of micro- and mini-satellites and can be used to compare mutation rates across chromosomes. It is observed that chromosomes that exhibit the highest mutation activity in tandem repeat regions are the same as those thought to have the highest overall mutation rates. However, unlike previous works that rely on comparing human and chimpanzee genomes to measure mutation rates, the proposed method allows us to find chromosomes with the highest mutation activity based on a single genome, in essence by comparing (approximate) copies of the pattern in tandem repeats. Conclusion: The prevalence of tandem repeats in most organisms and the efficiency of the proposed method enable studying various aspects of the formation of tandem repeats and the surrounding sequences in a wide range of settings. Availability: The implementation of the estimation method is available at

Original languageEnglish
Article number64
JournalBMC Bioinformatics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 6 Feb 2019


  • Duplication history
  • Estimation
  • Stochastic approximation
  • Tandem repeats

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics


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