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Fluctuating mutation bias and the evolution of base composition in Drosophila.


The idea that the pattern of point mutation in Drosophila has remained constant during the evolution of the genus has recently been challenged. A study of the nucleotide composition focused on the Drosophila saltans group has evidenced unsuspected nucleotide composition differences among lineages. Compositional differences are associated with an accelerated rate of amino acid replacement in functionally less constrained regions. Here we reassess this issue from a different perspective. Adopting a maximum-likelihood estimation approach, we focus on the different predictions that mutation and selection make about the nonsynonymous-to-synonymous rate ratio. We investigate two gene regions, alcohol dehydrogenase (Adh) and xanthine dehydrogenase (Xdh), using a balanced data set that comprises representatives from the melangaster, obscura, saltans, and willistoni groups. We also consider representatives of the Hawaiian picture-winged group. These Hawaiian species are known to have experienced repeated bottlenecks and are included as a reference for comparison. Our results confirm patterns previously detected. The branch ancestral to the fast-evolving willistoni/saltans lineage, where most of the change in GC content has occurred, exhibits an excess of synonymous substitutions. The shift in mutation bias has affected the extent of the rate variation among sites in Xdh.

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