The influence of specific neighboring bases on substitution bias in noncoding regions of the plant chloroplast genome

J Mol Evol. 1997 Sep;45(3):227-31. doi: 10.1007/pl00006224.


Substitutions occurring in noncoding sequences of the plant chloroplast genome violate the independence of sites that is assumed by substitution models in molecular evolution. The probability that a substitution at a site is a transversion, as opposed to a transition, increases significantly with increasing A + T content of the two adjacent nucleotides. In the present study, this dependency of substitutions on local context is examined further in a number of noncoding regions from the chloroplast genome of members of the grass family (Poaceae). Two features were examined; the influence of specific neighboring bases, as opposed to the general A + T content, on transversion proportion and an influence on substitutions by nucleotides other than the two immediately adjacent to the site of substitution. In both cases, a significant effect was found. In the case of specific nucleotides, transversion proportion is significantly higher at sites with a pyrimidine immediately 5' on either strand. Substitutions at sites of the type YNR, where N is the site of substitution, have the highest rate of transversion. This specific effect is secondary to the A + T content effect such that, in terms of proportion of substitutions that are transversions, the nucleotides are ranked T > A > C > G as to their effect when they are immediately 5' to the site of substitution. In the case of nucleotides other than the immediate neighbors, a significant influence on substitution dynamics is observed in the case where the two neighboring bases are both A and/or T. Thus, substitutions are primarily, but not exclusively, influenced by the composition of the two nucleotides that are immediately adjacent. These results indicate that the pattern of molecular evolution of the plant chloroplast genome is extremely complex as a result of a variety of inter-site dependencies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Chloroplasts / genetics*
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Genes, Plant
  • Genome, Plant*
  • Models, Genetic*
  • Open Reading Frames
  • Purines
  • Pyrimidines


  • Purines
  • Pyrimidines
  • pyrimidine
  • purine