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Molecular clock or erratic evolution? A tale of two genes.

  • Author(s): Ayala, FJ;
  • Barrio, E;
  • Kwiatowski, J
  • et al.

We have investigated the evolution of glycerol-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (Gpdh). The rate of amino acid replacements is 1 x 10(-10)/site/year when Drosophila species are compared. The rate is 2.7 times greater when Drosophila and Chymomyza species are compared; and about 5 times greater when any of those species are compared with the medfly Ceratitis capitata. This rate of 5 x 10(-10)/site/year is also the rate observed in comparisons between mammals, or between different animal phyla, or between the three multicellular kingdoms. We have also studied the evolution of Cu,Zn superoxide dismutase (Sod). The rate of amino acid replacements is about 17 x 10(-10)/site/year when comparisons are made between dipterans or between mammals, but only 5 x 10(-10) when animal phyla are compared, and only 3 x 10(-10) when the multicellular kingdoms are compared. The apparent decrease by about a factor of 5 in the rate of SOD evolution as the divergence between species increases can be consistent with the molecular clock hypothesis by assuming the covarion hypothesis (namely, that the number of amino acids that can change is constant, but the set of such amino acids changes from time to time and from lineage to lineage). However, we know of no model consistent with the molecular clock hypothesis that would account for the increase in the rate of GPDH evolution as the divergence between species increases.

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