The evolution of small insertions and deletions in the coding genes of Drosophila melanogaster.

Academic Article


  • Studies of protein evolution have focused on amino acid substitutions with much less systematic analysis on insertion and deletions (indels) in protein coding genes. We hence surveyed 7,500 genes between Drosophila melanogaster and D. simulans, using D. yakuba as an outgroup for this purpose. The evolutionary rate of coding indels is indeed low, at only 3% of that of nonsynonymous substitutions. As coding indels follow a geometric distribution in size and tend to fall in low-complexity regions of proteins, it is unclear whether selection or mutation underlies this low rate. To resolve the issue, we collected genomic sequences from an isogenic African line of D. melanogaster (ZS30) at a high coverage of 70× and analyzed indel polymorphism between ZS30 and the reference genome. In comparing polymorphism and divergence, we found that the divergence to polymorphism ratio (i.e., fixation index) for smaller indels (size ≤ 10 bp) is very similar to that for synonymous changes, suggesting that most of the within-species polymorphism and between-species divergence for indels are selectively neutral. Interestingly, deletions of larger sizes (size ≥ 11 bp and ≤ 30 bp) have a much higher fixation index than synonymous mutations and 44.4% of fixed middle-sized deletions are estimated to be adaptive. To our surprise, this pattern is not found for insertions. Protein indel evolution appear to be in a dynamic flux of neutrally driven expansion (insertions) together with adaptive-driven contraction (deletions), and these observations provide important insights for understanding the fitness of new mutations as well as the evolutionary driving forces for genomic evolution in Drosophila species.
  • Published In


  • coalescent, expansions, inferences, neolithic transition, population genetics, Amino Acid Substitution, Animals, Drosophila, Drosophila Proteins, Drosophila melanogaster, Evolution, Molecular, Genes, Insect, Genetic Fitness, Genetic Variation, Genome, Insect, INDEL Mutation, Molecular Sequence Data, Open Reading Frames, Phylogeny, Sequence Alignment
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Chong Z; Zhai W; Li C; Gao M; Gong Q; Ruan J; Li J; Jiang L; Lv X; Hungate E
  • Start Page

  • 2699
  • End Page

  • 2708
  • Volume

  • 30
  • Issue

  • 12