Building reliable phylogenies from very large collections of sequences with a limited number of phylogenetically informative sites is challenging because sequencing errors and recurrent/backward mutations interfere with the phylogenetic signal, confounding true evolutionary relationships. Massive global efforts of sequencing genomes and reconstructing the phylogeny of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) strains exemplify these difficulties since there are only hundreds of phylogenetically informative sites but millions of genomes. For such datasets, we set out to develop a method for building the phylogenetic tree of genomic haplotypes consisting of positions harboring common variants to improve the signal-to-noise ratio for more accurate and fast phylogenetic inference of resolvable phylogenetic features.
We present the TopHap approach that determines spatiotemporally common haplotypes of common variants and builds their phylogeny at a fraction of the computational time of traditional methods. We develop a bootstrap strategy that resamples genomes spatiotemporally to assess topological robustness. The application of TopHap to build a phylogeny of 68 057 SARS-CoV-2 genomes (68KG) from the first year of the pandemic produced an evolutionary tree of major SARS-CoV-2 haplotypes. This phylogeny is concordant with the mutation tree inferred using the co-occurrence pattern of mutations and recovers key phylogenetic relationships from moremore »
TopHap is available at https://github.com/SayakaMiura/TopHap.
Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.