Gene Tree Discordance Causes Apparent Substitution Rate Variation

Systematic Biology
Fábio K Mendes, Matthew W Hahn


Substitution rates are known to be variable among genes, chromosomes, species, and lineages due to multifarious biological processes. Here, we consider another source of substitution rate variation due to a technical bias associated with gene tree discordance. Discordance has been found to be rampant in genome-wide data sets, often due to incomplete lineage sorting (ILS). This apparent substitution rate variation is caused when substitutions that occur on discordant gene trees are analyzed in the context of a single, fixed species tree. Such substitutions have to be resolved by proposing multiple substitutions on the species tree, and we therefore refer to this phenomenon as Substitutions Produced by ILS (SPILS). We use simulations to demonstrate that SPILS has a larger effect with increasing levels of ILS, and on trees with larger numbers of taxa. Specific branches of the species trees are consistently, but erroneously, inferred to be longer or shorter, and we show that these branches can be predicted based on discordant tree topologies. Moreover, we observe that fixing a species tree topology when performing tests of positive selection increases the false positive rate, particularly for genes whose discordant topologies are m...Continue Reading

Associated Datasets


Sep 17, 2016·Molecular Biology and Evolution·Fábio K MendesMatthew W Hahn
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