Kernelization lower bounds by cross-composition

H.L. Bodlaender, B.M.P. Jansen, S. Kratsch

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178 Citations (Scopus)


We introduce the framework of cross-composition for proving kernelization lower bounds. A classical problem L and/or-cross-composes into a parameterized problem Q if it is possible to efficiently construct an instance of Q with polynomially bounded parameter value that expresses the logical and or or of a sequence of instances of L. Building on work by Bodlaender et al. and using results of Fortnow and Santhanam, Dell and van Melkebeek, and Drucker, we show that if an NP-hard problem and/or-cross-composes into a parameterized problem Q, then Q does not admit a polynomial kernel unless NP ⊆ coNP/poly and the polynomial hierarchy collapses. Our technique generalizes and strengthens the techniques of using composition algorithms and of transferring the lower bounds via polynomial parameter transformations. We show its applicability by proving kernelization lower bounds for a number of important graphs problems with structural (nonstandard) parameterizations, e.g., Clique, Chromatic Number, Weighted Feedback Vertex Set, and Weighted Odd Cycle Transversal do not admit polynomial kernels with respect to the vertex cover number of the input graphs unless the polynomial hierarchy collapses, contrasting the fact that these problems are trivially fixed-parameter tractable for this parameter. We have similar lower bounds for Feedback Vertex Set and Odd Cycle Transversal under structural parameterizations. After learning of our results, several teams of authors have successfully applied the cross-composition framework to different parameterized problems. For completeness, our presentation of the framework includes several extensions based on this follow-up work. For example, we show how a relaxed version of or-cross-compositions may be used to give lower bounds on the degree of the polynomial in the kernel size.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)277-305
Number of pages29
JournalSIAM Journal on Discrete Mathematics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Kernel lower bounds
  • Kernelization
  • Parameterized complexity
  • Structural parameterization


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