Comparative genomics of mitochondrial DNA in members of the Drosophila melanogaster subgroup

J Mol Evol. 2000 Jul;51(1):48-63. doi: 10.1007/s002390010066.


In this study, a comparative genomics approach is employed to investigate the forces that shape evolutionary change in the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) of members of the Drosophila melanogaster subgroup. This approach facilitates differentiation of the patterns of variation resulting from processes acting at a higher level from those acting on a single gene. The mitochondrial genomes of three isofemale lines of D. simulans (siI, -II, and -III), two of D. melanogaster (Oregon R and a line from Zimbabwe), and D. mauritiana (maI and -II), and one of D. sechellia were sequenced and compared with that derived from D. yakuba. Data presented here indicate that at least three broad mechanisms shape the evolutionary dynamics of mtDNA in these taxa. The first set of mechanisms is intrinsic to the molecule. Dominant processes may be interpreted as selection for an increased rate of replication of the mtDNA molecule, biases in DNA repair, and differences in the pattern of nucleotide substitution among strands. In the genes encoded on the major strand (62% of the coding DNA) changes to or from C predominate, whereas on the minor changes to or from G predominate. The second set of mechanisms affects distinct lineages. There are evolutionary rate differences among lineages, possibly owing to population demographic changes or changes in mutational biases. This is supported by the heterogeneity found in synonymous, nonsynonymous, and silent substitutions. The third set of mechanisms differentially affects distinct genes. A maximum-likelihood sliding-window analysis detected four disjunct regions that have a significantly different nucleotide substitution process from that derived from the complete sequence. These data show the potential for comparative genomics to tease apart subtle forces that shape the evolution of DNA.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Codon
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics*
  • Electron Transport Complex IV / genetics
  • Genetic Variation
  • Genome
  • Haplotypes
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Models, Genetic
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutation*
  • Phylogeny*
  • RNA, Transfer / genetics
  • Recombination, Genetic


  • Codon
  • DNA, Mitochondrial
  • RNA, Transfer
  • Electron Transport Complex IV