Estimating the distribution of selection coefficients from phylogenetic data with applications to mitochondrial and viral DNA

Mol Biol Evol. 2003 Aug;20(8):1231-9. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msg147. Epub 2003 May 30.


The distribution of selection coefficients of new mutations is of key interest in population genetics. In this paper we explore how codon-based likelihood models can be used to estimate the distribution of selection coefficients of new amino acid replacement mutations from phylogenetic data. To obtain such estimates we assume that all mutations at the same site have the same selection coefficient. We first estimate the distribution of selection coefficients from two large viral data sets under the assumption that the viral population size is the same along all lineages of the phylogeny and that the selection coefficients vary among sites. We then implement several new models in which the lineages of the phylogeny may have different population sizes. We apply the new models to a data set consisting of the coding regions from eight primate mitochondrial genomes. The results suggest that there might be little power to determine the exact shape of the distribution of selection coefficient but that the normal and gamma distributions fit the data significantly better than the exponential distribution.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Codon / genetics
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics*
  • DNA, Viral / genetics*
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Genetic Variation
  • HIV-1 / genetics
  • Humans
  • Influenza A virus / genetics
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Models, Genetic*
  • Mutation*
  • Phylogeny*
  • Primates / genetics
  • Selection, Genetic*


  • Codon
  • DNA, Mitochondrial
  • DNA, Viral