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Mol Biol Evol. 2011 Jan;28(1):729-44. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msq244. Epub 2010 Oct 6.

A phylogenetic model for investigating correlated evolution of substitution rates and continuous phenotypic characters.

Author information

1
Département de Biochimie, Centre Robert Cedergren, Université de Montréal, Montréal, Québec, Canada. nicolas.lartillot@umontreal.ca

Abstract

The comparative approach is routinely used to test for possible correlations between phenotypic or life-history traits. To correct for phylogenetic inertia, the method of independent contrasts assumes that continuous characters evolve along the phylogeny according to a multivariate Brownian process. Brownian diffusion processes have also been used to describe time variations of the parameters of the substitution process, such as the rate of substitution or the ratio of synonymous to nonsynonymous substitutions. Here, we develop a probabilistic framework for testing the coupling between continuous characters and parameters of the molecular substitution process. Rates of substitution and continuous characters are jointly modeled as a multivariate Brownian diffusion process of unknown covariance matrix. The covariance matrix, the divergence times and the phylogenetic variations of substitution rates and continuous characters are all jointly estimated in a Bayesian Monte Carlo framework, imposing on the covariance matrix a prior conjugate to the Brownian process so as to achieve a greater computational efficiency. The coupling between rates and phenotypes is assessed by measuring the posterior probability of positive or negative covariances, whereas divergence dates and phenotypic variations are marginally reconstructed in the context of the joint analysis. As an illustration, we apply the model to a set of 410 mammalian cytochrome b sequences. We observe a negative correlation between the rate of substitution and mass and longevity, which was previously observed. We also find a positive correlation between ω = dN/dS and mass and longevity, which we interpret as an indirect effect of variations of effective population size, thus in partial agreement with the nearly neutral theory. The method can easily be extended to any parameter of the substitution process and to any continuous phenotypic or environmental character.

PMID:
20926596
DOI:
10.1093/molbev/msq244
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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