, Volume 37, Issue 4, pp 441-456

Mammalian gene evolution: Nucleotide sequence divergence between mouse and rat

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Abstract

As a paradigm of mammalian gene evolution, the nature and extent of DNA sequence divergence between homologous protein-coding genes from mouse and rat have been investigated. The data set examined includes 363 genes totalling 411 kilobases, making this by far the largest comparison conducted between a single pair of species. Mouse and rat genes are on average 93.4% identical in nucleotide sequence and 93.9% identical in amino acid sequence. Individual genes vary substantially in the extent of nonsynonymous nucleotide substitution, as expected from protein evolution studies; here the variation is characterized. The extent of synonymous (or silent) substitution also varies considerably among genes, though the coefficient of variation is about four times smaller than for nonsynonymous substitutions. A small number of genes mapped to the X-chromosome have a slower rate of molecular evolution than average, as predicted if molecular evolution is “male-driven.” Base composition at silent sites varies from 33% to 95% G + C in different genes; mouse and rat homologues differ on average by only 1.7% in silent-site G + C, but it is shown that this is not necessarily due to any selective constraint on their base composition. Synonymous substitution rates and silent site base composition appear to be related (genes at intermediate G + C have on average higher rates), but the relationship is not as strong as in our earlier analyses. Rates of synonymous and nonsynonymous substitution are correlated, apparently because of an excess of substitutions involving adjacent pairs of nucleotides. Several factors suggest that synonymous codon usage in rodent genes is not subject to selection.