Evidence of Selection on Silent Site Base Composition in Mammals: Potential Implications for the Evolution of Isochores and Junk DNA

Genetics. 1999 Jun;152(2):675-83.


It has been suggested that mutation bias is the major determinant of base composition bias at synonymous, intron, and flanking DNA sites in mammals. Here I test this hypothesis using population genetic data from the major histocompatibility genes of several mammalian species. The results of two tests are inconsistent with the mutation hypothesis in coding, noncoding, CpG-island, and non-CpG-island DNA, but are consistent with selection or biased gene conversion. It is argued that biased gene conversion is unlikely to affect silent site base composition in mammals. The results therefore suggest that selection is acting upon silent site G + C content. This may have broad implications, since silent site base composition reflects large-scale variation in G + C content along mammalian chromosomes. The results therefore suggest that selection may be acting upon the base composition of isochores and large sections of junk DNA.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Animals
  • Base Composition / genetics*
  • CpG Islands / genetics
  • DNA / genetics
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Gene Frequency
  • Genetics, Population
  • Humans
  • Major Histocompatibility Complex / genetics
  • Mammals / genetics*
  • Mice
  • Models, Genetic
  • Mutation
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Selection, Genetic*
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Statistics as Topic


  • DNA