DOI: 10.1101/510958Jan 3, 2019Paper

Molecular evolution in large steps - Codon substitutions under positive selection

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Qingjian ChenChung-I Wu


Molecular evolution is believed to proceed in small steps. The step size can be defined by a distance reflecting physico-chemical disparities between amino acid (AA) pairs that can be exchanged by single 1 bp mutations. We show that AA substitution rates are strongly and negatively correlated with this distance but only when positive selection is relatively weak. We use the McDonald and Kreitman (MK) test to separate the influences of positive and negative selection. While negative selection is indeed stronger on AA substitutions generating larger changes in chemical properties of amino acids, positive selection operates by different rules. For 65 of the 75 possible pairs, positive selection is comparable in strength regardless of AA distance. However, the 10 pairs under the strongest positive selection all exhibit large leaps in chemical properties. Five of the 10 pairs are shared between hominoids and Drosophila, thus hinting at a common but modest biochemical basis of adaptation across taxa. The hypothesis that adaptive changes often take large functional steps will need to be extensively tested. If validated, molecular models will need to better integrate positive and negative selection in the search for adaptive signal.

Related Concepts

Evolution, Molecular
Amino Acid Substitution
Macdonald's Cervical Cerclage
Codon Genus
Genus Homo
Adaptation of Signaling Pathway

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