2017 Volume 92 Issue 1 Pages 43-54
Unsupervised data mining capable of extracting a wide range of knowledge from big data without prior knowledge or particular models is a timely application in the era of big sequence data accumulation in genome research. By handling oligonucleotide compositions as high-dimensional data, we have previously modified the conventional self-organizing map (SOM) for genome informatics and established BLSOM, which can analyze more than ten million sequences simultaneously. Here, we develop BLSOM specialized for tRNA genes (tDNAs) that can cluster (self-organize) more than one million microbial tDNAs according to their cognate amino acid solely depending on tetra- and pentanucleotide compositions. This unsupervised clustering can reveal combinatorial oligonucleotide motifs that are responsible for the amino acid-dependent clustering, as well as other functionally and structurally important consensus motifs, which have been evolutionarily conserved. BLSOM is also useful for identifying tDNAs as phylogenetic markers for special phylotypes. When we constructed BLSOM with ‘species-unknown’ tDNAs from metagenomic sequences plus ‘species-known’ microbial tDNAs, a large portion of metagenomic tDNAs self-organized with species-known tDNAs, yielding information on microbial communities in environmental samples. BLSOM can also enhance accuracy in the tDNA database obtained from big sequence data. This unsupervised data mining should become important for studying numerous functionally unclear RNAs obtained from a wide range of organisms.