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Open Access Research

Adaptive efficient compression of genomes

Sebastian Wandelt* and Ulf Leser

Author Affiliations

Institute for Computer Science, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany

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Algorithms for Molecular Biology 2012, 7:30  doi:10.1186/1748-7188-7-30

Published: 12 November 2012


Modern high-throughput sequencing technologies are able to generate DNA sequences at an ever increasing rate. In parallel to the decreasing experimental time and cost necessary to produce DNA sequences, computational requirements for analysis and storage of the sequences are steeply increasing. Compression is a key technology to deal with this challenge. Recently, referential compression schemes, storing only the differences between a to-be-compressed input and a known reference sequence, gained a lot of interest in this field. However, memory requirements of the current algorithms are high and run times often are slow. In this paper, we propose an adaptive, parallel and highly efficient referential sequence compression method which allows fine-tuning of the trade-off between required memory and compression speed. When using 12 MB of memory, our method is for human genomes on-par with the best previous algorithms in terms of compression ratio (400:1) and compression speed. In contrast, it compresses a complete human genome in just 11 seconds when provided with 9 GB of main memory, which is almost three times faster than the best competitor while using less main memory.

Sequence compression; Referential compression; Heuristics; Scalability