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J Mol Evol. 1994 Mar;38(3):282-94.

The cytochrome b region in the mitochondrial DNA of the ant Tetraponera rufoniger: sequence divergence in Hymenoptera may be associated with nucleotide content.

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  • 1Department of Genetics and Human Variation, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Victoria, Australia.


Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) followed by sequencing of single-stranded DNA yielded sequence information from the cytochrome b (cyt b) region in mitochondrial DNA from the ant Tetraponera rufoniger. Compared with the cyt b genes from Apis mellifera, Drosophila melanogaster, and D. yakuba, the overall A+T content (A+T%) of that of T. rufoniger is lower (69.9% vs 80.7%, 74.2%, and 73.9%, respectively) than those of the other three. The codon usage in the cyt b gene of T. rufoniger is biased although not as much as in A. mellifera, D. melanogaster, and D. yakuba; T. rufoniger has eight unused codons whereas D. melanogaster, D. yakuba, and A. mellifera have 21, 20, and 23, respectively. The inferred cyt b polypeptide chain (PPC) of T. rufoniger has diverged at least as much from a common ancestor with D. yakuba as has that of A. mellifera (approximately 3.5 vs approximately 2.9). Despite the lower A+T%, the relative frequencies of amino acids in the cyt b PPC of T. rufoniger are significantly (P < 0.05) associated with the content of adenine and thymine (A+T%) and size of codon families. The mitochondrially located cytochrome oxidase subunit II genes (CO-II) of endopterygote insects have significantly higher average A+T% (approximately 75%) than those of exopterygous (approximately 69%) and paleopterous (approximately 69%) insects. The increase in A+T% of endopterygote insects occurred in Upper Carboniferous and coincided with a significant acceleration of PPC divergence. However, acceleration of PPC divergence is not significantly correlated with the increase of the A+T% (P > 0.1). The high A+T%, the biased codon usage, and the increased PPC divergence of Hymenoptera can in that respect most easily be explained by directional mutation pressure which began in the Upper Carboniferous and still occurs in most members of the order. Given the roughly identical A+T% of the cyt b and CO-II genes from the other insects whose DNA sequences are known (A. mellifera, D. melanogaster, and D. yakuba), it seems most likely that the A+T% of T. rufoniger declined secondarily within the last 100 Myr as a result of a reduced directional mutation pressure.

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