Background: Understanding the compositional dynamics of genomes and their coding sequences is of great significance in gaining clues into molecular evolution and a large number of publically-available genome sequences have allowed us to quantitatively predict deviations of empirical data from their theoretical counterparts. However, the quantification of theoretical compositional variations for a wide diversity of genomes remains a major challenge.
Results: To model the compositional dynamics of protein-coding sequences, we propose two simple models that take into account both mutation and selection effects, which act differently at the three codon positions, and use both GC and purine contents as compositional parameters. The two models concern the theoretical composition of nucleotides, codons, and amino acids, with no prerequisite of homologous sequences or their alignments. We evaluated the two models by quantifying theoretical compositions of a large collection of protein-coding sequences (including 46 of Archaea, 686 of Bacteria, and 826 of Eukarya), yielding consistent theoretical compositions across all the collected sequences.
Conclusions: We show that the compositions of nucleotides, codons, and amino acids are largely determined by both GC and purine contents and suggest that deviations of the observed from the expected compositions may reflect compositional signatures that arise from a complex interplay between mutation and selection via DNA replication and repair mechanisms.