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Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2000 Nov;17(2):294-304.

Molecular evolution of cytochrome c oxidase subunit I in primates: is there coevolution between mitochondrial and nuclear genomes?

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Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, Center for Molecular Medicine and Genetics, Detroit, Michigan 48201, USA.


Phylogenetic analyses carried out on cytochrome c oxidase (COX) subunit I mitochondrial genes from 14 primates representing the major branches of the order and four outgroup nonprimate eutherians revealed that transversions and amino acid replacements (i.e., the more slowly occurring sequence changes) contained lower levels of homoplasy and thus provided more accurate information on cladistic relationships than transitions (i.e., the more rapidly occurring sequence changes). Several amino acids, each with a high likelihood of functionality involving the binding of cytochrome c or interaction with COX VIII, have changed in Anthropoidea, the primate suborder grouping New World monkey, Old World monkey, ape, and human lineages. They are conserved in other mammalian lineages and in nonanthropoid primates. Maximum-likelihood ancestral COX I nucleotide sequences were determined utilizing a near most parsimonious branching arrangement for the primate sequences that was consistent with previously hypothesized primate cladistic relationships based on larger and more diverse data sets. Relative rate tests of COX I mitochondrial sequences showed an elevated nonsynonymous (N) substitution rate for anthropoid-nonanthropoid comparisons. This finding for the largest mitochondrial (mt) DNA-encoded subunit is consistent with previous observations of elevated nonsynonymous substitution/synonymous substitution (S) rates in primates for mt-encoded COX II and for the nuclear-encoded COX IV and COX VIIa-H. Other COX-related proteins, including cytochrome c and cytochrome b, also show elevated amino acid replacement rates or N/S during similar time frames, suggesting that this group of interacting genes is likely to have coevolved during primate evolution.

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