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Mol Biol Evol. 2007 May;24(5):1113-21. Epub 2007 Mar 7.

Assessing the determinants of evolutionary rates in the presence of noise.

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  • 1Department of Biology, The University of Pennsylvania, USA. jplotkin@sas.upenn.edu


Although protein sequences are known to evolve at vastly different rates, little is known about what determines their rate of evolution. However, a recent study using principal component regression (PCR) has concluded that evolutionary rates in yeast are primarily governed by a single determinant related to translation frequency. Here, we demonstrate that noise in biological data can confound PCRs, leading to spurious conclusions. When equalizing noise levels across 7 predictor variables used in previous studies, we find no evidence that protein evolution is dominated by a single determinant. Our results indicate that a variety of factors--including expression level, gene dispensability, and protein-protein interactions--may independently affect evolutionary rates in yeast. More accurate measurements or more sophisticated statistical techniques will be required to determine which one, if any, of these factors dominates protein evolution.

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