Motivation: Genomic islands (GIs) are DNA fragments incorporated into a genome through horizontal gene transfer (also called lateral gene transfer), often with functions novel for a given organism. While methods for their detection are well researched in prokaryotes, the complexity of eukaryotic genomes makes direct utilization of these methods unreliable, and so labour-intensive phylogenetic searches are used instead.
Results: We present a surrogate method that investigates nucleotide base composition of the DNA sequence in a eukaryotic genome and identifies putative GIs. We calculate a genomic signature as a vector of tetranucleotide (4-mer) frequencies using a sliding window approach. Extending the neighbourhood of the sliding window, we establish a local kernel density estimate of the 4-mer frequency. We score the number of4-mer frequencies in the sliding window that deviate from the credibility interval of their local genomic density using a newly developed discrete interval accumulative score (DIAS). To further improve the effectiveness of DIAS, we select informative 4-mers in a range of organisms using the tetranucleotide quality score developed herein. We show that the SigHunt method is computationally efficient and able to detect GIs in eukaryotic genomes that represent non-ameliorated integration. Thus, it is suited to scanning for change in organisms with different DNA composition.