, Volume 49, Issue 5, pp 691-698

Toward Assigning Helical Regions in Alignments of Ribosomal RNA and Testing the Appropriateness of Evolutionary Models

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We suggest a nucleotide substitution model that takes correlation between base-paired nucleotides into account. The model includes the estimation of the transition–transversion ratio and allows inference of the shape parameter of a discrete gamma distribution to include rate heterogeneity. A Cox-test statistic, applied to a diatom ribosomal RNA alignment, shows that the suggested correlation model explains evolution of the stem region better than usual independence models. Moreover, the Cox-test procedure is extended to shed some light upon the problem of assigning helical regions in a secondary structure based alignment. This approach provides an estimate of the percentage of stem positions that do not appear to be correlated.

Received: 4 March 1999 / Accepted: 10 May 1999