# How to improve this Needleman-Wunsch implementation in C#?

I split my implementation of this sequence alignment algorithm in three methods. Where NeedlemanWunsch-method makes use of the ScoringFunction and the Traceback methods. Further I decided to go with two matices. One matrix is for the scoring, the second contains data to make the traceback easier.

public static int ScoreFunction(char a,char b,int matchScore,int mismatchScore)
{
if (a == b)
{
return matchScore;
}
else
{
return mismatchScore;
}
}

public static string[] NeedlemanWunsch(string sequenceA, string sequenceB, int gapPenalty, int matchScore, int mismatchScore)
{

#region Initialize
int[,] matrix = new int[sequenceA.Length + 1, sequenceB.Length + 1];
char[,] tracebackMatrix = new char[sequenceA.Length + 1, sequenceB.Length + 1];
matrix[0, 0] = 0;

for (int i = 1; i < sequenceA.Length + 1;i++)
{
matrix[i,0] = matrix[i-1,0] + gapPenalty;
tracebackMatrix[i,0] = 'L';
}

for (int i = 1; i < sequenceB.Length + 1; i++)
{
matrix[0, i] = matrix[0 , i - 1] + gapPenalty;
tracebackMatrix[0,i] = 'U';
}
#endregion

#region Scoring
for (int i = 1; i < sequenceA.Length + 1;i++)
{
for (int j = 1; j < sequenceB.Length + 1;j++)
{
int diagonal = matrix[i - 1, j - 1] + ScoreFunction(sequenceA[i-1],sequenceB[j-1],matchScore,mismatchScore);
int links = matrix[i - 1, j] + gapPenalty;
int oben = matrix[i, j - 1] + gapPenalty;

if(matrix[i,j] == diagonal)
{
tracebackMatrix[i, j] = 'D';
}
else if (matrix[i, j] == links)
{
tracebackMatrix[i, j] = 'L';
}
else if (matrix[i, j] == oben)
{
tracebackMatrix[i, j] = 'U';
}
}
}
#endregion

#region Traceback
return TraceBack(tracebackMatrix,sequenceA,sequenceB);
#endregion

}

public static string[] TraceBack(char[,] tracebackMatrix,string sequenzA, string sequenzB)
{

int i = tracebackMatrix.GetLength(0) - 1;
int j = tracebackMatrix.GetLength(1) - 1;

string alignedSeqA = "";
string alignedSeqB = "";

while(i != 0 && j != 0)
{
switch (tracebackMatrix[i, j])
{
case 'D':
alignedSeqA += sequenzA[i - 1];
alignedSeqB += sequenzB[j - 1];
i--;
j--;
break;
case 'U':
alignedSeqA += "-";
alignedSeqB += sequenzB[j - 1];
j--;
break;
case 'L':
alignedSeqA += sequenzA[i - 1];
alignedSeqB += "-";
i--;
break;

}
}

string[] alignments = new string;

alignedSeqA = new string(alignedSeqA.Reverse().ToArray());
alignedSeqB = new string(alignedSeqB.Reverse().ToArray());
alignments = alignedSeqA;
alignments = alignedSeqB;

return alignments;

}


I am especially concerned about the traceback method and whether it is a good idea to use two matrices.

Some general notes:

• The TraceBack method does string concatenation in a tight loop. This is a big f***ing nono. Use a StringBuilder instead, and you will notice a considerable speedup. You have to understand that .net Strings are immutable. This means that a statement like strA += strB does not update strA, it creates a third string and updates the reference to strA. This means concatenation in a tight loop is very expansive.

• If you do not have a compelling reason to use 2d Arrays (var bla = new int[5,5]), use jagged arrays (var bla = new int). Most of the time, the .net JIT compiler can drop the bounds checks for jagged arrays, but not for 2D arrays.

• It may be worthwhile to convert tracebackMatrix from chars (16 bits) to bytes (8 bits)

• All three points make sense to me. But I don't really understand how the StringBuilder would change the method. That wouldn't make the while-loop unnecessary, would it? Or should I just replace the concatenation "" += "" by a call to a StringBuilder method? – チーズパン Feb 15 '14 at 15:15
• I've edited the description but yes, you would replace strA += strB with strBuilderA.Append(strB) and at the end you would add a single statement like result = strBuilderA.ToString() – thomasch Feb 16 '14 at 11:25

First of all, your method "TraceBack" does not return anything (what should it return, both strings?). You can also simplify your first method to use this instead:

public static int ScoreFunction(char a, char b, int matchScore, int mismatchScore)
{
return a == b ? matchScore : mismatchScore;
}


Rest does not look bad to me, however, I am not that familiar with the algorithm...

• I somehow missed to copy/paste the return statement into the function. So edit is done. – チーズパン Feb 15 '14 at 12:12