Recombination, dominance and selection on amino acid polymorphism in the Drosophila genome: contrasting patterns on the X and fourth chromosomes

Genetics. 2003 Nov;165(3):1195-208. doi: 10.1093/genetics/165.3.1195.


Surveys of nucleotide polymorphism and divergence indicate that the average selection coefficient on Drosophila proteins is weakly positive. Similar surveys in mitochondrial genomes and in the selfing plant Arabidopsis show that weak negative selection has operated. These differences have been attributed to the low recombination environment of mtDNA and Arabidopsis that has hindered adaptive evolution through the interference effects of linkage. We test this hypothesis with new sequence surveys of proteins lying in low recombination regions of the Drosophila genome. We surveyed >3800 bp across four proteins at the tip of the X chromosome and >3600 bp across four proteins on the fourth chromosome in 24 strains of D. melanogaster and 5 strains of D. simulans. This design seeks to study the interaction of selection and linkage by comparing silent and replacement variation in semihaploid (X chromosome) and diploid (fourth chromosome) environments lying in regions of low recombination. While the data do indicate very low rates of exchange, all four gametic phases were observed both at the tip of the X and across the fourth chromosome. Silent variation is very low at the tip of the X (thetaS = 0.0015) and on the fourth chromosome (thetaS = 0.0002), but the tip of the X shows a greater proportional loss of variation than the fourth shows relative to normal-recombination regions. In contrast, replacement polymorphism at the tip of the X is not reduced (thetaR = 0.00065, very close to the X chromosome average). MK and HKA tests both indicate a significant excess of amino acid polymorphism at the tip of the X relative to the fourth. Selection is significantly negative at the tip of the X (Nes = -1.53) and nonsignificantly positive on the fourth (Nes approximately 2.9), analogous to the difference between mtDNA (or Arabidopsis) and the Drosophila genome average. Our distal X data are distinct from regions of normal recombination where the X shows a deficiency of amino acid polymorphism relative to the autosomes, suggesting more efficient selection against recessive deleterious replacement mutations. We suggest that the excess amino acid polymorphism on the distal X relative to the fourth chromosome is due to (1) differences in the mutation rate for selected mutations on the distal X or (2) a greater relaxation of selection from stronger linkage-related interference effects on the distal X. This relaxation of selection is presumed to be greater in magnitude than the difference in efficiency of selection between X-linked vs. autosomal selection.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids / genetics*
  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Chromosomes*
  • DNA Primers
  • Drosophila / genetics*
  • Genome*
  • Polymorphism, Genetic*
  • Recombination, Genetic*
  • Selection, Genetic*
  • X Chromosome*


  • Amino Acids
  • DNA Primers