Genome wide analyses reveal little evidence for adaptive evolution in many plant species

Mol Biol Evol. 2010 Aug;27(8):1822-32. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msq079. Epub 2010 Mar 18.


The relative contribution of advantageous and neutral mutations to the evolutionary process is a central problem in evolutionary biology. Current estimates suggest that whereas Drosophila, mice, and bacteria have undergone extensive adaptive evolution, hominids show little or no evidence of adaptive evolution in protein-coding sequences. This may be a consequence of differences in effective population size. To study the matter further, we have investigated whether plants show evidence of adaptive evolution using an extension of the McDonald-Kreitman test that explicitly models slightly deleterious mutations by estimating the distribution of fitness effects of new mutations. We apply this method to data from nine pairs of species. Altogether more than 2,400 loci with an average length of approximately 280 nucleotides were analyzed. We observe very similar results in all species; we find little evidence of adaptive amino acid substitution in any comparison except sunflowers. This may be because many plant species have modest effective population sizes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Substitution
  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Genetic Fitness
  • Genome, Plant*
  • Mice
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutation
  • Plants / genetics*
  • Population Density
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA