Date Published:Feb 16
To estimate patterns of molecular evolution of unconstrained DNA sequences, we used maximum parsimony to separate phylogenetic trees of a non-long terminal repeat retrotransposable element into either internal branches, representing mainly the constrained evolution of active lineages, or into terminal branches, representing mainly nonfunctional "dead-on-arrival" copies that are unconstrained by selection and evolve as pseudogenes. The pattern of nucleotide substitutions in unconstrained sequences is expected to be congruent with the pattern of point mutation. We examined the retrotransposon Helena in the Drosophila virilis species group (subgenus Drosophila) and the Drosophila melanogaster species subgroup (subgenus Sophophora). The patterns of point mutation are indistinguishable, suggesting considerable stability over evolutionary time (40-60 million years). The relative frequencies of different point mutations are unequal, but the "transition bias" results largely from an approximately 2-fold excess of G.C to A.T substitutions. Spontaneous mutation is biased toward A.T base pairs, with an expected mutational equilibrium of approximately 65% A + T (quite similar to that of long introns). These data also enable the first detailed comparison of patterns of point mutations in Drosophila and mammals. Although the patterns are different, all of the statistical significance comes from a much greater rate of G.C to A.T substitution in mammals, probably because of methylated cytosine "hotspots." When the G.C to A.T substitutions are discounted, the remaining differences are considerably reduced and not statistically significant.
Petrov, D AHartl, D LengHG01250/HG/NHGRI NIH HHS/Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov'tResearch Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.1999/02/17Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1999 Feb 16;96(4):1475-9.