A zero-agnostic model for copy number evolution in cancer

Henri Schmidt, Palash Sashittal, Benjamin J. Raphael

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Motivation New low-coverage single-cell DNA sequencing technologies enable the measurement of copy number profiles from thousands of individual cells within tumors. From this data, one can infer the evolutionary history of the tumor by modeling transformations of the genome via copy number aberrations. Copy number aberrations alter multiple adjacent genomic loci, violating the standard phylogenetic assumption that loci evolve independently. Thus, specialized models to infer copy number phylogenies have been introduced. A widely used model is the copy number transformation (CNT) model in which a genome is represented by an integer vector and a copy number aberration is an event that either increases or decreases the number of copies of a contiguous segment of the genome. The CNT distance between a pair of copy number profiles is the minimum number of events required to transform one profile to another. While this distance can be computed efficiently, no efficient algorithm has been developed to find the most parsimonious phylogeny under the CNT model. Results We introduce the zero-agnostic copy number transformation (ZCNT) model, a simplification of the CNT model that allows the amplification or deletion of regions with zero copies. We derive a closed form expression for the ZCNT distance between two copy number profiles and show that, unlike the CNT distance, the ZCNT distance forms a metric. We leverage the closed-form expression for the ZCNT distance and an alternative characterization of copy number profiles to derive polynomial time algorithms for two natural relaxations of the small parsimony problem on copy number profiles. While the alteration of zero copy number regions allowed under the ZCNT model is not biologically realistic, we show on both simulated and real datasets that the ZCNT distance is a close approximation to the CNT distance. Extending our polynomial time algorithm for the ZCNT small parsimony problem, we develop an algorithm, Lazac, for solving the large parsimony problem on copy number profiles. We demonstrate that Lazac outperforms existing methods for inferring copy number phylogenies on both simulated and real data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1011590
JournalPLoS computational biology
Issue number11 November
StatePublished - Nov 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Genetics
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Molecular Biology
  • Ecology
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics
  • Modeling and Simulation


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