Bayesian analysis suggests that most amino acid replacements in Drosophila are driven by positive selection

J Mol Evol. 2003;57 Suppl 1:S154-64. doi: 10.1007/s00239-003-0022-3.


One of the principal goals of population genetics is to understand the processes by which genetic variation within species (polymorphism) becomes converted into genetic differences between species (divergence). In this transformation, selective neutrality, near neutrality, and positive selection may each play a role, differing from one gene to the next. Synonymous nucleotide sites are often used as a uniform standard of comparison across genes on the grounds that synonymous sites are subject to relatively weak selective constraints and so may, to a first approximation, be regarded as neutral. Synonymous sites are also interdigitated with nonsynonymous sites and so are affected equally by genomic context and demographic factors. Hence a comparison of levels of polymorphism and divergence between synonymous sites and amino acid replacement sites in a gene is potentially informative about the magnitude of selective forces associated with amino acid replacements. We have analyzed 56 genes in which polymorphism data from D. simulans are compared with divergence from a reference strain of D. melanogaster. The framework of the analysis is Bayesian and assumes that the distribution of selective effects (Malthusian fitnesses) is Gaussian with a mean that differs for each gene. In such a model, the average scaled selection intensity (gamma = N(e)s) of amino acid replacements eligible to become polymorphic or fixed is -7.31, and the standard deviation of selective effects within each locus is 6.79 (assuming homoscedasticity across loci). For newly arising mutations of this type that occur in autosomal or X-linked genes, the average proportion of beneficial mutations is 19.7%. Among the amino acid polymorphisms in the sample, the expected average proportion of beneficial mutations is 47.7%, and among amino acid replacements that become fixed the average proportion of beneficial mutations is 94.3%. The average scaled selection intensity of fixed mutations is +5.1. The presence of positive selection is pervasive with the single exception of kl-5, a Y-linked fertility gene. We find no evidence that a significant fraction of fixed amino acid replacements is neutral or nearly neutral or that positive selection drives amino acid replacements at only a subset of the loci. These results are model dependent and we discuss possible modifications of the model that might allow more neutral and nearly neutral amino acid replacements to be fixed.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Substitution
  • Animals
  • Bayes Theorem*
  • Drosophila / genetics*
  • Models, Genetic
  • Mutation
  • Polymorphism, Genetic*
  • Selection, Genetic*
  • X Chromosome
  • Y Chromosome