Journal of Molecular Evolution

, Volume 19, Issue 6, pp 437–448 | Cite as

The spatial distribution of fixed mutations within genes coding for proteins

  • Richard Holmquist
  • Morris Goodman
  • Thomas Conroy
  • John Czelusniak


We have examined the extensive amino acid sequence data now available for five protein families — the α crystallin A chain, myoglobin, alpha and beta hemoglobin, and the cytochromesc — with the goal of estimating the true spatial distribution of base substitutions within genes that code for proteins. In every case the commonly used Poisson density failed to even approximate the experimental pattern of base substitution. For the 87 species of beta hemoglobin examined, for example, the probability that the observed results were from a Poisson process was the minuscule 10−44. Analogous results were obtained for the other functional families. All the data were reasonably, but not perfectly, described by the negative binomial density. In particular, most of the data were described by one of the very simple limiting forms of this density, the geometric density. The implications of this for evolutionary inference are discussed. It is evident that most estimates of total base substitutions between genes are badly in need of revision.

Key words

Base substitution patterns Mutability Poisson density Geometric density Negative binomial density Natural selection Amino acids Proteins Genes Nucleotides 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard Holmquist
    • 1
  • Morris Goodman
    • 2
  • Thomas Conroy
    • 3
  • John Czelusniak
    • 2
  1. 1.Space Sciences LaboratoryUniversity of California at BerkeleyBerkeleyUSA
  2. 2.Department of AnatomyWayne State UniversityDetroitUSA
  3. 3.Department of Electrical Engineering (Graduate Division)University of California at BerkeleyBerkeleyUSA

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