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Mol Biol Evol. 1996 Dec;13(10):1393-404.

Evolution of eutherian cytochrome c oxidase subunit II: heterogeneous rates of protein evolution and altered interaction with cytochrome c.

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Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Texas A&M University, USA.


Cytochrome c oxidase subunit II (COII), encoded by the mitochondrial genome, exhibits one of the most heterogeneous rates of amino acid replacement among placental mammals. Moreover, it has been demonstrated that cytochrome c oxidase has undergone a structural change in higher primates which has altered its physical interaction with cytochrome c. We collected a large data set of COII sequences from several orders of mammals with emphasis on primates, rodents, and artiodactyls. Using phylogenetic hypotheses based on data independent of the COII gene, we demonstrated that an increased number of amino acid replacements are concentrated among higher primates. Incorporating approximate divergence dates derived from the fossil record, we find that most of the change occurred independently along the New World monkey lineage and in a rapid burst before apes and Old World monkeys diverged. There is some evidence that Old World monkeys have undergone a faster rate of nonsynonymous substitution than have apes. Rates of substitution at four-fold degenerate sites in primates are relatively homogeneous, indicating that the rate heterogeneity is restricted to nondegenerate sites. Excluding the rate acceleration mentioned above, primates, rodents, and artiodactyls have remarkably similar nonsynonymous replacement rates. A different pattern is observed for transversions at four-fold degenerate sites, for which rodents exhibit a higher rate of replacement than do primates and artiodactyls. Finally, we hypothesize specific amino acid replacements which may account for much of the structural difference in cytochrome c oxidase between higher primates and other mammals.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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