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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1988 Apr;85(8):2653-7.

Directional mutation pressure and neutral molecular evolution.

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  • Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, University of Colorado, Boulder 80309.


A quantitative theory of directional mutation pressure proposed in 1962 explained the wide variation of DNA base composition observed among different bacteria and its small heterogeneity within individual bacterial species. The theory was based on the assumption that the effect of mutation on a genome is not random but has a directionality toward higher or lower guanine-plus-cytosine content of DNA, and this pressure generates directional changes more in neutral parts of the genome than in functionally significant parts. Now that DNA sequence data are available, the theory allows the estimation of the extent of neutrality of directional mutation pressure against selection. Newly defined parameters were used in the analysis, and two apparently universal constants were discovered. Analysis of DNA sequence has revealed that practically all organisms are subject to directional mutation pressure. The theory also offers plausible explanations for the large heterogeneity in guanine-plus-cytosine content among different parts of the vertebrate genome.

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