Team, Visitors, External Collaborators
Overall Objectives
Research Program
Highlights of the Year
New Software and Platforms
New Results
Partnerships and Cooperations
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Section: New Results

Analysis of tree data

Participants : Romain Azaïs, Christophe Godin, Salah Eddine Habibeche [External Collaborator] , Florian Ingels.

Tree-structured data naturally appear at different scales and in various fields of biology where plants and blood vessels may be described by trees. In the team, we aim to investigate a new paradigm for modeling tree structures in biology in particular to solve complex problems related to the representation of biological organisms and their forms in silico.

In 2019, we investigated the following questions linked to the analysis of tree data. (i) How to control the complexity of the algorithms used to solve queries on tree structures? For example, computing the edit distance matrix of a dataset of large trees is numerically expensive. (ii) How to estimate the parameters within a stochastic model of trees? And finally, (iii) how to develop statistical learning algorithms adapted to tree data? In general, trees do not admit a Euclidean representation, while most of classification algorithms are only adapted to Euclidean data. Consequently, we need to study methods that are specific to tree data.

Approximation of trees by self-nested trees. Complex queries on tree structures (e.g., computation of edit distance, finding common substructures, compression) are required to handle tree objects. A critical question is to control the complexity of the algorithms implemented to solve these queries. One way to address this issue is to approximate the original trees by simplified structures that achieve good algorithmic properties. One can expect good algorithmic properties from structures that present a high level of redundancy in their substructures. Indeed, one can take into account these repetitions to avoid redundant computations on the whole structure. In the team, we think that the class of self-nested trees, that are the most compressed trees by DAG compression scheme, is a good candidate to be such an approximation class.

In [11], we have proved the algorithmic efficiency of self-nested trees through different questions (compression, evaluation of recursive functions, evaluation of edit distance) and studied their combinatorics. In particular, we have established that self-nested trees are roughly exponentially less frequent than general trees. This combinatorics can be an asset in exhaustive search problems. Nevertheless, this result also says that one can not always take advantage of the remarkable algorithmic properties of self-nested trees when working with general trees. Consequently, our aim is to investigate how general trees can be approximated by simplified trees in the class of self-nested trees from both theoretical and numerical perspectives. In [3], we present two approximation algorithms that are optimal but assume that the approximation can be obtained by only adding vertices to the initial data (or by only deleting vertices from the initial data). In [11], we have developed a suboptimal approximation algorithm based on the height profile of a tree that can be used to very rapidly predict the edit distance between two trees, which is a usual but costly operation for comparing tree data in computational biology. Another algorithm based on the efficient simulation of conditioned random walks on the space of trees is currently under development. This work should result in the submission of a paper next year.

It should be noted that the aforementioned strategy and algorithms can only be applied to topological trees. In 2019, we also began a new project on approximation of trees with geometrical attributes on their vertices and with possibly a controlled loss of information during the compression.

Statistical inference. The main objective of statistical inference is to retrieve the unknown parameters of a stochastic model from observations. A Galton-Watson tree is the genealogical tree of a population starting from one initial ancestor in which each individual gives birth to a random number of children according to the same probability distribution, independently of each other. In a recent work [5], we have focused on Galton-Watson trees conditional on their number of nodes. Several main classes of random trees can be seen as conditioned Galton-Watson trees. For instance, an ordered tree picked uniformly at random in the set of all ordered trees of a given size is a conditioned Galton-Watson tree with offspring distribution the geometric law with parameter 1/2. Statistical methods were developed for conditioned Galton-Watson trees in [5]. We have introduced new estimators and stated their consistency. Our techniques improve the existing results both theoretically and numerically.

We continue to explore these questions for subcritical but surviving Galton-Watson trees. The conditioning is a source of bias that must be taken into account to build efficient estimators of the birth distribution. This work should be submitted to a journal next year.

Kernel methods for tree data. Standard statistical techniques – such as SVMs for supervised learning – are usually designed to process Euclidean data. However, trees are typically non-Euclidean, thus preventing using these methods. Kernel methods allow this problem to be overcome by mapping trees in Hilbert spaces. However, the choice of kernel determines the feature space obtained, and thus greatly influences the performance of the different statistical algorithms. Our work is therefore focused on the question of how to build a good kernel.

We first looked in [17] at a kernel of the literature, the subtree kernel, and showed that the choice of the weight function – arbitrarily fixed so far – was crucial for prediction problems. By proposing a new framework to calculate this kernel, based on the DAG compression of trees, we were able to propose a new weight, learned from the data. In particular, on 8 data sets, we have empirically shown that this new weight improves prediction error in 7 cases, and with a relative improvement of more than 50% in 4 of these cases. This work was presented at a national conference [15].

We then tried to generalize our framework by proposing a kernel that is no longer based on subtrees, but on more general structures. To this end, we have developed an algorithm for the exhaustive enumeration of such structures, namely the forest of subtrees with a uniform fringe. This work will be submitted for pre-publication early in the coming year.