Comparing reverse complementary genomic words based on their distance distributions and frequencies

Ana Helena Tavares*, Jakob Raymaekers, Peter J. Rousseeuw, Raquel M. Silva, Carlos A. C. Bastos, Armando Pinho, Paula Brito, Vera Afreixo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this work, we study reverse complementary genomic word pairs in the human DNA, by comparing both the distance distribution and the frequency of a word to those of its reverse complement. Several measures of dissimilarity between distance distributions are considered, and it is found that the peak dissimilarity works best in this setting. We report the existence of reverse complementary word pairs with very dissimilar distance distributions, as well as word pairs with very similar distance distributions even when both distributions are irregular and contain strong peaks. The association between distribution dissimilarity and frequency discrepancy is also explored, and it is speculated that symmetric pairs combining low and high values of each measure may uncover features of interest. Taken together, our results suggest that some asymmetries in the human genome go far beyond Chargaff’s rules. This study uses both the complete human genome and its repeat-masked version.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalInterdisciplinary Sciences: Computational Life Sciences
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Chargaff’s rules
  • Distance distribution
  • Human genome
  • Peak dissimilarity
  • Symmetric word pairs


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