Estimation of evolutionary parameters with phylogenetic trees

Qiang Wang, Laura A. Salter, Dennis Keith Pearl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


An important issue in the phylogenetic analysis of nucleotide sequence data using the maximum likelihood (ML) method is the underlying evolutionary model employed. We consider the problem of simultaneously estimating the tree topology and the parameters in the underlying substitution model and of obtaining estimates of the standard errors of these parameter estimates. Given a fixed tree topology and corresponding set of branch lengths, the ML estimates of standard evolutionary model parameters are asymptotically efficient, in the sense that their joint distribution is asymptotically normal with the variance - covariance matrix given by the inverse of the Fisher information matrix. We propose a new estimate of this conditional variance based on estimation of the expected information using a Monte Carlo sampling (MCS) method. Simulations are used to compare this conditional variance estimate to the standard technique of using the observed information under a variety of experimental conditions. In the case in which one wishes to estimate simultaneously the tree and parameters, we provide a bootstrapping approach that can be used in conjunction with the MCS method to estimate the unconditional standard error. The methods developed are applied to a real data set consisting of 30 papillomavirus sequences. This overall method is easily incorporated into standard bootstrapping procedures to allow for proper variance estimation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)684-695
Number of pages12
JournalJournal Of Molecular Evolution
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2002

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


Dive into the research topics of 'Estimation of evolutionary parameters with phylogenetic trees'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this