Sequence shortening in the rodent ancestor

Genome Res. 2012 Mar;22(3):478-85. doi: 10.1101/gr.121897.111. Epub 2011 Nov 29.


Insertions and deletions (indels), together with nucleotide substitutions, are major drivers of sequence evolution. An excess of deletions over insertions in genomic sequences-the so-called deletional bias-has been reported in a wide range of species, including mammals. However, this bias has not been found in the coding sequences of some mammalian species, such as human and mouse. To determine the strength of the deletional bias in mammals, and the influence of mutation and selection, we have quantified indels in both neutrally evolving noncoding sequences and protein-coding sequences, in six mammalian branches: human, macaque, ancestral primate, mouse, rat, and ancestral rodent. The results obtained with an improved algorithm for the placement of insertions in multiple alignments, Prank(+F), indicate that contrary to previous results, the only mammalian branch with a strong deletional bias is the rodent ancestral branch. We estimate that such a bias has resulted in an ~2.5% sequence loss of mammalian syntenic region in the ancestor of the mouse and rat. Further, a comparison of coding and noncoding sequences shows that negative selection is acting more strongly against mutations generating amino acid insertions than against mutations resulting in amino acid deletions. The strength of selection against indels is found to be higher in the rodent branches than in the primate branches, consistent with the larger effective population sizes of the rodents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Humans
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Mammals / genetics*
  • Mice
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutagenesis, Insertional
  • Open Reading Frames
  • RNA, Untranslated
  • Rats
  • Rodentia / genetics
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Sequence Deletion*
  • Tandem Repeat Sequences


  • RNA, Untranslated