The neutral theory of molecular evolution predicts that variation within species is inversely related to the strength of purifying selection, but the strength of purifying selection itself must be related to physical constraints imposed by protein folding and function. In this paper, we analyzed five enzymes for which polymorphic sequence variation within Escherichia coli and/or Salmonella enterica was available, along with a protein structure. Single and multivariate logistic regression models are presented that evaluate amino acid size, physicochemical properties, solvent accessibility, and secondary structure as predictors of polymorphism. A model that contains a positive coefficient of association between polymorphism and solvent accessibility and separate intercepts for each secondary-structure element is sufficient to explain the observed variation in polymorphism between sites. The model predicts an increase in the probability of amino acid polymorphism with increasing solvent accessibility for each protein regardless of physicochemical properties, secondary-structure element, or size of the amino acid. This result, when compared with the distribution of synonymous polymorphism, which shows no association with solvent accessibility, suggests a strong decrease in purifying selection with increasing solvent accessibility.
Bustamante, C DTownsend, J PHartl, D LengResearch Support, Non-U.S. Gov'tResearch Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.2000/03/11Mol Biol Evol. 2000 Feb;17(2):301-8.