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Mol Biol Evol. 2001 May;18(5):757-62.

The elevated GC content at exonic third sites is not evidence against neutralist models of isochore evolution.

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Pole BioInformatique Lyonnais, Laboratoire BBE-UMR Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique 5558, Universite Claude Bernard-Lyon 1, Villeurbanne, France.


The human genome is divided into isochores, large stretches (>>300 kb) of genomic DNA with more or less consistent GC content. Mutational/neutralist and selectionist models have been put forward to explain their existence. A major criticism of the mutational models is that they cannot account for the higher GC content at fourfold-redundant silent sites within exons (GC4) than in flanking introns (GCi). Indeed, it has been asserted that it is hard to envisage a mutational bias explanation, as it is difficult to see how repair enzymes might act differently in exons and their flanking introns. However, this rejection, we note, ignores the effects of transposable elements (TEs), which are a major component of introns and tend to cause them to have a GC content different from (usually lower than) that dictated by point mutational processes alone. As TEs tend not to insert at the extremities of introns, this model predicts that GC content at the extremities of introns should be more like that at GC4 than are the intronic interiors. This we show to be true. The model also correctly predicts that small introns should have a composition more like that at GC4 than large introns. We conclude that the logic of the previous rejection of neutralist models is unsafe.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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