Towards a reinforcement learning de novo genome assembler

Kleber Padovani, Roberto Xavier, Andre Carvalho, Anna Reali, Annie Chateau, Ronnie Alves

The use of reinforcement learning has proven to be very promising for solving complex activities without human supervision during their learning process. However, their successful applications are predominantly focused on fictional and entertainment problems - such as games. Based on the above, this work aims to shed light on the application of reinforcement learning to solve this relevant real-world problem, the genome assembly. By expanding the only approach found in the literature that addresses this problem, we carefully explored the aspects of intelligent agent learning, performed by the Q-learning algorithm, to understand its suitability to be applied in scenarios whose characteristics are more similar to those faced by real genome projects. The improvements proposed here include changing the previously proposed reward system and including state space exploration optimization strategies based on dynamic pruning and mutual collaboration with evolutionary computing. These investigations were tried on 23 new environments with larger inputs than those used previously. All these environments are freely available on the internet for the evolution of this research by the scientific community. The results suggest consistent performance progress using the proposed improvements, however, they also demonstrate the limitations of them, especially related to the high dimensionality of state and action spaces. We also present, later, the paths that can be traced to tackle genome assembly efficiently in real scenarios considering recent, successfully reinforcement learning applications - including deep reinforcement learning - from other domains dealing with high-dimensional inputs.

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