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Mol Biol Evol. 2000 Aug;17(8):1220-31.

Bias in phylogenetic reconstruction of vertebrate rhodopsin sequences.

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Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, MA, USA.


Two spurious nodes were found in phylogenetic analyses of vertebrate rhodopsin sequences in comparison with well-established vertebrate relationships. These spurious reconstructions were well supported in bootstrap analyses and occurred independently of the method of phylogenetic analysis used (parsimony, distance, or likelihood). Use of this data set of vertebrate rhodopsin sequences allowed us to exploit established vertebrate relationships, as well as the considerable amount known about the molecular evolution of this gene, in order to identify important factors contributing to the spurious reconstructions. Simulation studies using parametric bootstrapping indicate that it is unlikely that the spurious nodes in the parsimony analyses are due to long branches or other topological effects. Rather, they appear to be due to base compositional bias at third positions, codon bias, and convergent evolution at nucleotide positions encoding the hydrophobic residues isoleucine, leucine, and valine. LogDet distance methods, as well as maximum-likelihood methods which allow for nonstationary changes in base composition, reduce but do not entirely eliminate support for the spurious resolutions. Inclusion of five additional rhodopsin sequences in the phylogenetic analyses largely corrected one of the spurious reconstructions while leaving the other unaffected. The additional sequences not only were more proximal to the corrected node, but were also found to have intermediate levels of base composition and codon bias as compared with neighboring sequences on the tree. This study shows that the spurious reconstructions can be corrected either by excluding third positions, as well as those encoding the amino acids Ile, Val, and Leu (which may not be ideal, as these sites can contain useful phylogenetic signal for other parts of the tree), or by the addition of sequences that reduce problems associated with convergent evolution.

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