A thermodynamic model of protein structure evolution explains empirical amino acid substitution matrices

Christoffer Norn, Ingemar André, Douglas L. Theobald
2021 Protein Science  
Proteins evolve under a myriad of biophysical selection pressures that collectively control the patterns of amino acid substitutions. These evolutionary pressures are sufficiently consistent over time and across protein families to produce substitution patterns, summarized in global amino acid substitution matrices such as BLOSUM, JTT, WAG, and LG, which can be used to successfully detect homologs, infer phylogenies, and reconstruct ancestral sequences. Although the factors that govern the
more » ... tion of amino acid substitution rates have received much attention, the influence of thermodynamic stability constraints remains unresolved. Here we develop a simple model to calculate amino acid substitution matrices from evolutionary dynamics controlled by a fitness function that reports on the thermodynamic effects of amino acid mutations in protein structures. This hybrid biophysical and evolutionary model accounts for nucleotide transition/transversion rate bias, multi-nucleotide codon changes, the number of codons per amino acid, and thermodynamic protein stability. We find that our theoretical model accurately recapitulates the complex yet universal pattern observed in common global amino acid substitution matrices used in phylogenetics. These results suggest that selection for thermodynamically stable proteins, coupled with nucleotide mutation bias filtered by the structure of the genetic code, is the primary driver behind the global amino acid substitution patterns observed in proteins throughout the tree of life.
doi:10.1002/pro.4155 pmid:34218472 pmcid:PMC8442976 fatcat:626efhku35a23hlwd6yinnyzxi