Frequent and widespread parallel evolution of protein sequences

Molecular Biology and Evolution
Antonis Rokas, Sean B Carroll


Understanding the patterns and causes of protein sequence evolution is a major challenge in evolutionary biology. One of the critical unresolved issues is the relative contribution of selection and genetic drift to the fixation of amino acid sequence differences between species. Molecular homoplasy, the independent evolution of the same amino acids at orthologous sites in different taxa, is one potential signature of selection; however, relatively little is known about its prevalence in eukaryotic proteomes. To quantify the extent and type of homoplasy among evolving proteins, we used phylogenetic methodology to analyze 8 genome-scale data matrices from clades of different evolutionary depths that span the eukaryotic tree of life. We found that the frequency of homoplastic amino acid substitutions in eukaryotic proteins was more than 2-fold higher than expected under neutral models of protein evolution. The overwhelming majority of homoplastic substitutions were parallelisms that involved the most frequently exchanged amino acids with similar physicochemical properties and that could be reached by a single-mutational step. We conclude that the role of homoplasy in shaping the protein record is much larger than generally assumed...Continue Reading


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