De novo clustering is a popular technique to perform taxonomic profiling of a microbial community by grouping 16S rRNA amplicon reads into operational taxonomic units (OTUs). In this work, we introduce a new dendrogram-based OTU clustering pipeline called CRiSPy. The key idea used in CRiSPy to improve clustering accuracy is the application of an anomaly detection technique to obtain a dynamic distance cutoff instead of using the de facto value of 97 percent sequence similarity as in most existing OTU clustering pipelines. This technique works by detecting an abrupt change in the merging heights of a dendrogram. To produce the output dendrograms, CRiSPy employs the OTU hierarchical clustering approach that is computed on a genetic distance matrix derived from an all-against-all read comparison by pairwise sequence alignment. However, most existing dendrogram-based tools have difficulty processing datasets larger than 10,000 unique reads due to high computational complexity. We address this difficulty by developing two efficient algorithms for CRiSPy: a compute-efficient GPU-accelerated parallel algorithm for pairwise distance matrix computation and a memory-efficient hierarchical clustering algorithm. Our experiments on various datasets with distinct attributes show that CRiSPy is able to produce more accurate OTU groupings than most OTU clustering applications.
IEEE/ACM Transactions on Computation Biology and Bioinformatics, Vol. 12, No. 5, Sept/Oct 2015
Date of acceptance