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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2002 Dec 10;99(25):16134-7. Epub 2002 Dec 2.

Near-neutrality in evolution of genes and gene regulation.

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National Institute of Genetics, Mishima 411-8540, Japan.


The nearly neutral theory contends that the interaction of drift and selection is important and occurs at various levels, including synonymous and nonsynonymous substitutions in protein coding regions and sequence turnover of regulatory elements. Recent progress of the theory is reviewed, and the interaction between drift and selection is suggested to differ at these different levels. Weak selective force on synonymous changes is stable, whereas its consequence on nonsynonymous changes depends on environmental factors. Selection on differentiation of regulatory elements is even more dependent on environmental factors than on amino acid changes. Of particular significance is the role of drift in the evolution of gene regulation that directly participates in morphological evolution. The range of near neutrality depends on the effective size of the population that is influenced by selected linked loci. In addition to the effective population size, molecular chaperones such as heat shock protein 90 have significant effects on the range of near neutrality.

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