Prevalence of multinucleotide replacements in evolution of primates and Drosophila

Nadezhda V. Terekhanova, Georgii A. Bazykin, Alexey Neverov, Alexey S. Kondrashov, Vladimir B. Seplyarskiy

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20 Citations (Scopus)


Evolution of sequences mostly involves independent changes at different sites. However, substitutions at neighboring sites may co-occur as multinucleotide replacement events (MNRs). Here, we compare noncoding sequences of several species of primates, and of three species of Drosophila fruit flies, in a phylogenetic analysis of the replacements that occurred between species at nearby nucleotide sites. Both in primates and in Drosophila, the frequency of single-nucleotide replacements is substantially elevated within 10 nucleotides from other replacements that occurred on the same lineage but not on another lineage. The data imply that dinucleotide replacements (DNRs) affecting sites at distances of up to 10 nucleotides from each other are responsible for 2.3% of single-nucleotide replacements in primate genomes and for 5.6% in Drosophila genomes. Among these DNRs, 26% and 69%, respectively, are in fact parts of replacements of three or more trinucleotide replacements (TNRs). The plurality of MNRs affect nearby nucleotides, so that at least six times as many DNRs affect two adjacent nucleotide sites than sites 10 nucleotides apart. Still, approximately 60% of DNRs, and approximately 90% of TNRs, span distances more than two (or three) nucleotides. MNRs make a major contribution to the observed clustering of substitutions: In the human-chimpanzee comparison, DNRs are responsible for 50% of cases when two nearby replacements are observed on the human lineage, and TNRs are responsible for 83% of cases when three replacements at three immediately adjacent sites are observed on the human lineage. The prevalence of MNRs matches that is observed in data on de novo mutations and is also observed in the regions with the lowest sequence conservation, suggesting that MNRs mainly have mutational origin; however, epistatic selection and/or gene conversion may also play a role.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1315-1325
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular Biology and Evolution
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • complex mutations
  • D. melanogaster
  • H. sapiens
  • multinucleotide replacements
  • mutagenesis


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