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This article is part of the supplement: Ninth International Conference on Bioinformatics (InCoB2010): Computational Biology

Open Access Proceedings

Evolutionary patterns of amino acid substitutions in 12 Drosophila genomes

Lev Y Yampolsky1* and Michael A Bouzinier2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biological sciences, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, TN 37614, USA

2 InterSystems Corporation, One Memorial Drive, Cambridge, MA 02142, USA

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BMC Genomics 2010, 11(Suppl 4):S10  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-11-S4-S10

Published: 2 December 2010



Harnessing vast amounts of genomic data in phylogenetic context stemming from massive sequencing of multiple closely related genomes requires new tools and approaches. We present a tool for the genome-wide analysis of frequencies and patterns of amino acid substitutions in multiple alignments of genes’ coding regions, and a database of amino acid substitutions in the phylogeny of 12 Drosophila genomes. We illustrate the use of these resources to address three types of evolutionary genomics questions: about fluxes in amino acid composition in proteins, about asymmetries in amino acid substitutions and about patterns of molecular evolution in duplicated genes.


We demonstrate that amino acid composition of Drosophila proteins underwent a significant shift over the last 70 million years encompassed by the studied phylogeny, with less common amino acids (Cys, Met, His) increasing in frequency and more common ones (Ala, Leu, Glu) becoming less frequent. These fluxes are strongly correlated with polarity of source and destination amino acids, resulting in overall systematic decrease of mean polarity of amino acids found in Drosophila proteins. Frequency and radicality of amino acid substitutions are higher in paralogs than in orthologous single-copy genes and are higher in gene families with paralogs than in gene families without surviving duplications. Rate and radicality of substitutions, as expected, are negatively correlated with overall level and uniformity of gene expression. However, these correlations are not observed for substitutions occurring in duplicated genes, indicating a different selective constraint on the evolution of paralogous sequences. Clades resulting from duplications show a marked asymmetry in rate and radicality of amino acid substitutions, possibly a signal of widespread neofunctionalization. These patterns differ among protein families of different functionality, with genes coding for RNA-binding proteins differing from most other functional groups in terms of amino acid substitution patterns in duplicated and single-copy genes.


We demonstrate that deep phylogenetic analysis of amino acid substitutions can reveal interesting genome-wide patterns. Amino acid composition of drosophilid proteins is shaped by fluxes similar to those previously observed in prokaryotic, yeast and mammalian genomes, indicating globally present patterns. Increased frequency and radicality of amino acid substitutions in duplicated genes and the presence of asymmetry of these parameters between paralogous clades indicate widespread neofunctionalization among paralogs as the mechanism of duplication retention.