Interaction between selection and biased gene conversion in mammalian protein-coding sequence evolution revealed by a phylogenetic covariance analysis

Molecular Biology and Evolution
Nicolas Lartillot


According to the nearly-neutral model, variation in long-term effective population size among species should result in correlated variation in the ratio of nonsynonymous over synonymous substitution rates (dN/dS). Previous empirical investigations in mammals have been consistent with this prediction, suggesting an important role for nearly-neutral effects on protein-coding sequence evolution. GC-biased gene conversion (gBGC), on the other hand, is increasingly recognized as a major evolutionary force shaping genome nucleotide composition. When sufficiently strong compared with random drift, gBGC may significantly interfere with a nearly-neutral regime and impact dN/dS in a complex manner. Here, we investigate the phylogenetic correlations between dN/dS, the equilibrium GC composition (GC*), and several life-history and karyotypic traits in placental mammals. We show that the equilibrium GC composition decreases with body mass and increases with the number of chromosomes, suggesting a modulation of the strength of biased gene conversion due to changes in effective population size and genome-wide recombination rate. The variation in dN/dS is complex and only partially fits the prediction of the nearly-neutral theory. However, spe...Continue Reading


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