Disentangling positive vs. relaxed selection in animal mitochondrial genomes [article]

Kendra D. Zwonitzer, Erik N. K. Iverson, James J. Sterling, Ryan J. Weaver, Bradley A. Maclaine, Justin C. Havird
2022 bioRxiv   pre-print
AbstractDisentangling different types of selection is a common goal in molecular evolution. Elevated dN/dS ratios (the ratio of nonsynonymous to synonymous substitution rates) in focal lineages are often interpreted as signs of positive selection. Paradoxically, relaxed purifying selection can also result in elevated dN/dS ratios, but tests to distinguish these two causes are seldomly implemented. Here, we reevaluated seven case studies describing elevated dN/dS ratios in animal mtDNA and their
more » ... accompanying hypotheses regarding selection. They included flightless vs. flighted lineages in birds, bats, and insects, and physiological adaptations in snakes, two groups of electric fishes, and primates. We found that elevated dN/dS ratios were often not caused by the predicted mechanism, and we sometimes found strong support for the opposite mechanism. We discuss reasons why energetic hypotheses may be confounded by other selective forces acting on mtDNA and caution against overinterpreting molecular "spandrels", including elevated dN/dS ratios.
doi:10.1101/2022.10.05.510972 fatcat:wkxykbn5pbetxcd3u4fsdt6gui