Scaling deep phylogenetic embedding to ultra-large reference trees: a tree-aware ensemble approach


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Phylogenetic placement of a query sequence on a backbone tree is increasingly used across biomedical sciences to identify the content of a sample from its DNA content. The accuracy of such analyses depends on the density of the backbone tree, making it crucial that placement methods scale to very large trees. Moreover, a new paradigm has been recently proposed to place sequences on the species tree using single-gene data. The goal is to better characterize the samples and to enable combined analyses of marker-gene (e.g., 16S rRNA gene amplicon) and genome-wide data. The recent method DEPP enables performing such analyses using metric learning. However, metric learning is hampered by a need to compute and save a quadratically growing matrix of pairwise distances during training. Thus, DEPP (or any distance-based method) does not scale to more than roughly ten thousand species, a problem that we faced when trying to use our recently released Greengenes2 (GG2) reference tree containing 331,270 species. Scalability problems can be addressed in phylogenetics using divide- and-conquer. However, applying divide- and-conquer to data-hungry machine learning methods needs nuance. This paper explores divide- and-conquer for training ensembles of DEPP models, culminating in a method called C-DEPP that uses carefully crafted techniques to enable quasi-linear scaling while maintaining accuracy. C-DEPP enables placing twenty million 16S fragments on the GG2 reference tree in 41 hours of computation. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.
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Key words
deep phylogenetic,trees,ensemble,ultra-large,tree-aware
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