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Relative rates of evolution in the coding and control regions of African mtDNAs

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Joanna Elson, Emeritus Professor Doug Turnbull


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Reduced median networks of African haplogroup L mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequences were analyzed to determine the pattern of substitutions in both the noncoding control and coding regions. In particular, we attempted to determine the causes of the previously reported (Howell et al. 2004) violation of the molecular clock during the evolution of these sequences. In the coding region, there was a significantly higher rate of substitution at synonymous sites than at nonsynonymous sites as well as in the tRNA and rRNA genes. This is further evidence for the operation of purifying selection during human mtDNA evolution. For most sites in the control region, the relative rate of substitution was similar to the rate of neutral evolution (assumed to be most closely approximated by the substitution rate at 4-fold degenerate sites). However, there are a number of mutational hot spots in the control region, ∼3% of the total sites, that have a rate of substitution greater than the neutral rate, at some sites by more than an order of magnitude. It is possible either that these sites are evolving under conditions of positive selection or that the substitution rate at some sites in the control region is strongly dependent upon sequence context. Finally, we obtained preliminary evidence for "nonideal" evolution in the control region, including haplogroup-specific substitution patterns and a decoupling between relative rates of substitution in the control and coding regions. © The Author 2007. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution. All rights reserved.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Howell N, Elson JL, Howell C, Turnbull DM

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Molecular Biology and Evolution

Year: 2007

Volume: 24

Issue: 10

Pages: 2213-2221

ISSN (print): 0737-4038

ISSN (electronic): 1537-1719

Publisher: Oxford University Press


DOI: 10.1093/molbev/msm147

PubMed id: 17642471


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Funder referenceFunder name
074454Wellcome Trust
G90/63Medical Research Council