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Mol Biol Evol. 1999 Dec;16(12):1645-53.

Directional substitution and evolution of nucleotide content in the cytochrome oxidase II gene in earwigs (dermapteran insects).

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  • 1Laboratoire d'Ecologie and Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Paris 6 University, France.


The cytochrome oxidase subunit II (COII) gene was sequenced for six dermapteran species. The nucleotide composition of this gene is biased in most animals. While the CG content of other insect orders is low (mean, 27.6%; range, 19.5%-33.1%), species from the Forficula genus showed unusually high values (mean, 42.4%; range, 37.3%-44.1%), mostly due to high CG frequencies at third codon positions: the mean CG content at these positions was around 45% (range, 43.9%-46.9%) for Forficula, compared with only 13.3% for other insects. This effect was so strong that in one species, Forficula lesnei, there was no significant difference between the frequencies of the four bases. During evolution, this loss of bias has involved a significant increase in the synonymous substitution rate and an increase of transitions over transversions compared with other insects. A strong directionality of substitutions has favored T-->C and A-->G changes. This phenomenon was also observed between two conspecific populations of Forficula auricularia. A species from a closely related genus, Anechura bipunctata, was intermediate between Forficula and other insects for these parameters, while two remotely related dermapteran species, Labidura riparia and Euborellia moesta, were similar to other insects. These results suggest that the evolution of Forficula DNA content has been both rapid and recent.

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