DNA word analysis based on the distribution of the distances between symmetric words

Ana H.M.P. Tavares, Armando J. Pinho, Raquel M. Silva, João M.O.S. Rodrigues, Carlos A.C. Bastos, Paulo J.S.G. Ferreira, Vera Afreixo*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


We address the problem of discovering pairs of symmetric genomic words (i.e., words and the corresponding reversed complements) occurring at distances that are overrepresented. For this purpose, we developed new procedures to identify symmetric word pairs with uncommon empirical distance distribution and with clusters of overrepresented short distances. We speculate that patterns of overrepresentation of short distances between symmetric word pairs may allow the occurrence of non-standard DNA conformations, such as hairpin/cruciform structures. We focused on the human genome, and analysed both the complete genome as well as a version with known repetitive sequences masked out. We reported several well-defined features in the distributions of distances, which can be classified into three different profiles, showing enrichment in distinct distance ranges. We analysed in greater detail certain pairs of symmetric words of length seven, found by our procedure, characterised by the surprising fact that they occur at single distances more frequently than expected.
Original languageEnglish
Article number728
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017
Externally publishedYes


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