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Mol Biol Evol. 2006 Jun;23(6):1203-16. Epub 2006 Mar 21.

Strong regional biases in nucleotide substitution in the chicken genome.

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Department of Evolution, Genomics and Systematics, Evolutionary Biology Centre, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden.


Interspersed repeats have emerged as a valuable tool for studying neutral patterns of molecular evolution. Here we analyze variation in the rate and pattern of nucleotide substitution across all autosomes in the chicken genome by comparing the present-day CR1 repeat sequences with their ancestral copies and reconstructing nucleotide substitutions with a maximum likelihood model. The results shed light on the origin and evolution of large-scale heterogeneity in GC content found in the genomes of birds and mammals--the isochore structure. In contrast to mammals, where GC content is becoming homogenized, heterogeneity in GC content is being reinforced in the chicken genome. This is also supported by patterns of substitution inferred from alignments of introns in chicken, turkey, and quail. Analysis of individual substitution frequencies is consistent with the biased gene conversion (BGC) model of isochore evolution, and it is likely that patterns of evolution in the chicken genome closely resemble those in the ancestral amniote genome, when it is inferred that isochores originated. Microchromosomes and distal regions of macrochromosomes are found to have elevated substitution rates and a more GC-biased pattern of nucleotide substitution. This can largely be accounted for by a strong correlation between GC content and the rate and pattern of substitution. The results suggest that an interaction between increased mutability at CpG motifs and fixation biases due to BGC could explain increased levels of divergence in GC-rich regions.

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