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Genetics. 1999 Jul;152(3):1103-10.

Pattern of nucleotide substitution and rate heterogeneity in the hypervariable regions I and II of human mtDNA.

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Max-Planck-Institut für evolutionäre Anthropologie, D-04103 Leipzig, Germany.


This study provides a comprehensive survey of the complex pattern of nucleotide substitution in the control region of human mtDNA, which is of central importance to the studies of human evolution. A total of 1229 different hypervariable region I (HVRI) and 385 different hypervariable region II (HVRII) sequences were analyzed using a complex substitution model. Moreover, we suggest a new method to assign relative rates to each site in the sequence. Estimates are based on maximum-likelihood methods applied to randomly selected subsets of sequences. Our results indicate that the rate of substitution in HVRI is approximately twice as high as in HVRII and that this difference is mainly due to a higher frequency of pyrimidine transitions in HVRI. However, rate heterogeneity is more pronounced in HVRII.

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