Inequality in mutation rates of the two strands of DNA

Nature. 1987 May 14-20;327(6118):169-70. doi: 10.1038/327169a0.


As the mechanisms for replicating the two strands of duplex DNA differ it is, in principle, possible for the mutation rates to differ depending on which strand is being copied. In the absence of selection this would lead to a difference in the measured rate of a particular base substitution, such as T to C, depending on which DNA strand was analysed to determine the rate. Thus a change such as T to C on one DNA strand results from either a direct T-to-C mutation on that strand or an A-to-G mutation on the complementary strand; for the other strand the situation is reversed, and it can be seen that different processes are responsible for the two cases, allowing for asymmetry in substitution rate. We have tested whether such asymmetry indeed occurs by studying equivalent sequences from the beta-globin complexes of six species of primate. Our results reveal an asymmetry in substitution rates consistent with predictions based on strand-inequalities in mutation rates. Our sequence comparisons also allow us to make predictions about the positions of replication origins and the replication error rates of one strand relative to the other.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Composition
  • Cebidae
  • DNA / genetics*
  • DNA Replication
  • Globins / genetics*
  • Gorilla gorilla
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Mutation*
  • Pan troglodytes
  • Pongo pygmaeus


  • Globins
  • DNA