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PLoS Genet. 2007 Feb 2;3(2):e22.

Transition-transversion bias is not universal: a counter example from grasshopper pseudogenes.

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  • 1School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, Queen Mary, University of London, London, United Kingdom.


Comparisons of the DNA sequences of metazoa show an excess of transitional over transversional substitutions. Part of this bias is due to the relatively high rate of mutation of methylated cytosines to thymine. Postmutation processes also introduce a bias, particularly selection for codon-usage bias in coding regions. It is generally assumed, however, that there is a universal bias in favour of transitions over transversions, possibly as a result of the underlying chemistry of mutation. Surprisingly, this underlying trend has been evaluated only in two types of metazoan, namely Drosophila and the Mammalia. Here, we investigate a third group, and find no such bias. We characterize the point substitution spectrum in Podisma pedestris, a grasshopper species with a very large genome. The accumulation of mutations was surveyed in two pseudogene families, nuclear mitochondrial and ribosomal DNA sequences. The cytosine-guanine (CpG) dinucleotides exhibit the high transition frequencies expected of methylated sites. The transition rate at other cytosine residues is significantly lower. After accounting for this methylation effect, there is no significant difference between transition and transversion rates. These results contrast with reports from other taxa and lead us to reject the hypothesis of a universal transition/transversion bias. Instead we suggest fundamental interspecific differences in point substitution processes.

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