TitleSubstitution bias, rapid saturation, and the use of mtDNA for nematode systematics
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1998
AuthorsBlouin, M, Yowell, CA, Courtney, CH, Dame, JB
JournalMolecular Biology and Evolution
Type of ArticleJournal Article

Only relatively recently have researchers turned to molecular methods for nematode phylogeny reconstruction. Thus, we lack the extensive literature on evolutionary patterns and phylogenetic usefulness of different DNA regions for nematodes that exists for other taxa. Here, we examine the usefulness of mtDNA for nematode phylogeny reconstruction and provide data that can be used for a priori character weighting or for parameter specification in models of sequence evolution. We estimated the substitution pattern for the mitochondrial ND4 gene from intraspecific comparisons in four species of parasitic nematodes from the family Trichostrongylidae (38-50 sequences per species). The resulting pattern suggests a strong mutational bias toward A and T, and a lower transition/transversion ratio than is typically observed in other taxa. We also present information on the relative rates of substitution at first, second, and third codon positions and on relative rates of saturation of different types of substitutions in comparisons ranging from intraspecific to interordinal. Silent sites saturate extremely quickly, presumably owing to the substitution bias and, perhaps, to an accelerated mutation rate. Results emphasize the importance of using only the most closely related sequences in order to infer patterns of substitution accurately for nematodes or for other taxa having strongly composition-biased DNA. ND4 also shows high amino acid polymorphism at both the intra- and interspecific levels, and in higher level comparisons, there is evidence of saturation at variable amino acid sites. In general, we recommend using mtDNA coding genes only for phylogenetics of relatively closely related nematode species and, even then, using only nonsynonymous substitutions and the more conserved mitochondrial genes (e.g., cytochrome oxidases). On the other hand, the high substitution rate in genes such as ND4 should make them excellent for population genetics studies, identifying cryptic species, and resolving relationships among closely related congeners when other markers show insufficient variation.

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