What Is a Suffix Tree in Data Structure?


Angela Bailey

A suffix tree is a powerful data structure used in computer science and string processing. It is specifically designed to efficiently store and search for all the suffixes of a given string. In this article, we will explore the concept of suffix trees, their construction, and their various applications.

What is a Suffix Tree?
A suffix tree is a compressed trie-like data structure that represents all the suffixes of a given string. It provides an efficient way to search for substrings within the original string by utilizing the properties of shared prefixes.

Construction of a Suffix Tree
Constructing a suffix tree involves several steps:

1. Begin with an empty root node. 2. Iterate through each character in the input string. 3.

For each character, add it as a child node under the root node and connect them with an edge. 4. Continue this process for each subsequent character until we reach the end of the input string. 5. If there are any shared prefixes among different suffixes, create additional nodes and edges accordingly.

The resulting structure forms a compact representation of all possible substrings in the input string.

Applications of Suffix Trees
Suffix trees have numerous applications in various domains such as bioinformatics, text analysis, pattern matching, and more. Let’s explore some common use cases:

1. Pattern Searching

One of the main applications of suffix trees is pattern searching within strings. By constructing a suffix tree for a given text, we can efficiently find occurrences of patterns or substrings within that text.

For example, consider searching for multiple patterns within a large DNA sequence database. Suffix trees allow us to quickly identify all occurrences of these patterns without having to iterate through every position in each sequence individually.

2. Longest Common Substring

Given two or more strings, finding their longest common substring can be a challenging problem. However, suffix trees provide an elegant solution.

By constructing a suffix tree for all the input strings combined, we can identify the longest common substring by finding the deepest internal node that has leaf nodes from all input strings as descendants.

3. Text Compression

Suffix trees can also be used for text compression purposes. By storing only the indexes of suffixes in the original text, we can efficiently represent repetitive patterns within a given string.

This technique is commonly employed in various compression algorithms like Burrows-Wheeler Transform (BWT) and its successor, the Move-to-front Transform (MTF).


Suffix trees are powerful data structures that efficiently store and search for all possible substrings of a given string. They have numerous applications in pattern searching, finding longest common substrings, text compression, and more.

By understanding the construction process and applications of suffix trees, you can harness their potential to solve complex string processing tasks effectively. So go ahead and explore this fascinating data structure to enhance your algorithmic skills!

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