Löytynoja, A. & Goldman, N. A model of evolution and structure for multiple sequence alignment. Philos. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. B Biol. Sci. 363, 3913–3919 (2008).
We have developed a phylogeny-aware progressive alignment method that recognizes insertions and deletions as distinct evolutionary events and thus avoids systematic errors created by traditional alignment methods. We now extend this method to simultaneously model regional heterogeneity and evolution. This novel method can be flexibly adapted to alignment of nucleotide or amino acid sequences evolving under processes that vary over genomic regions and, being fully probabilistic, provides an estimate of regional heterogeneity of the evolutionary process along the alignment and a measure of local reliability of the solution. Furthermore, the evolutionary modelling of substitution process permits adjusting the sensitivity and specificity of the alignment and, if high specificity is aimed at, leaving sequences unaligned when their divergence is beyond a meaningful detection of homology.