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1.  Widespread Positive Selection in Synonymous Sites of Mammalian Genes 
Molecular biology and evolution  2007;24(8):1821-1831.
Evolution of protein sequences is largely governed by purifying selection, with a small fraction of proteins evolving under positive selection. The evolution at synonymous positions in protein-coding genes is not nearly as well understood, with the extent and types of selection remaining, largely, unclear. A statistical test to identify purifying and positive selection at synonymous sites in protein-coding genes was developed. The method compares the rate of evolution at synonymous sites (Ks) to that in intron sequences of the same gene after sampling the aligned intron sequences to mimic the statistical properties of coding sequences. We detected purifying selection at synonymous sites in ∼28% of the 1,562 analyzed orthologous genes from mouse and rat, and positive selection in ∼12% of the genes. Thus, the fraction of genes with readily detectable positive selection at synonymous sites is much greater than the fraction of genes with comparable positive selection at nonsynonymous sites, i.e., at the level of the protein sequence. Unlike other genes, the genes with positive selection at synonymous sites showed no correlation between Ks and the rate of evolution in nonsynonymous sites (Ka), indicating that evolution of synonymous sites under positive selection is decoupled from protein evolution. The genes with purifying selection at synonymous sites showed significant anticorrelation between Ks and expression level and breadth, indicating that highly expressed genes evolve slowly. The genes with positive selection at synonymous sites showed the opposite trend, i.e., highly expressed genes had, on average, higher Ks. For the genes with positive selection at synonymous sites, a significantly lower mRNA stability is predicted compared to the genes with negative selection. Thus, mRNA destabilization could be an important factor driving positive selection in nonsynonymous sites, probably, through regulation of expression at the level of mRNA degradation and, possibly, also translation rate. So, unexpectedly, we found that positive selection at synonymous sites of mammalian genes is substantially more common than positive selection at the level of protein sequences. Positive selection at synonymous sites might act through mRNA destabilization affecting mRNA levels and translation.
PMCID: PMC2632937  PMID: 17522087
synonymous sites; nonsynonymous sites; positive selection; purifying selection; introns
2.  Evolutionary significance of gene expression divergence 
Gene  2004;345(1):119-126.
Recent large-scale studies of evolutionary changes in gene expression among mammalian species have led to the proposal that gene expression divergence may be neutral with respect to organismic fitness. Here, we employ a comparative analysis of mammalian gene sequence divergence and gene expression divergence to test the hypothesis that the evolution of gene expression is predominantly neutral. Two models of neutral gene expression evolution are considered: 1—purely neutral evolution (i.e., no selective constraint) of gene expression levels and patterns and 2—neutral evolution accompanied by selective constraint. With respect to purely neutral evolution, levels of change in gene expression between human–mouse orthologs are correlated with levels of gene sequence divergence that are determined largely by purifying selection. In contrast, evolutionary changes of tissue-specific gene expression profiles do not show such a correlation with sequence divergence. However, divergence of both gene expression levels and profiles are significantly lower for orthologous human–mouse gene pairs than for pairs of randomly chosen human and mouse genes. These data clearly point to the action of selective constraint on gene expression divergence and are inconsistent with the purely neutral model; however, there is likely to be a neutral component in evolution of gene expression, particularly, in tissues where the expression of a given gene is low and functionally irrelevant. The model of neutral evolution with selective constraint predicts a regular, clock-like accumulation of gene expression divergence. However, relative rate tests of the divergence among human–mouse–rat orthologous gene sets reveal clock-like evolution for gene sequence divergence, and to a lesser extent for gene expression level divergence, but not for the divergence of tissue-specific gene expression profiles. Taken together, these results indicate that gene expression divergence is subject to the effects of purifying selective constraint and suggest that it might also be substantially influenced by positive Darwinian selection.
PMCID: PMC1859841  PMID: 15716085
Molecular evolution; Neutral theory; Human; Mouse; Genomics
3.  Global similarity and local divergence in human and mouse gene co-expression networks 
A genome-wide comparative analysis of human and mouse gene expression patterns was performed in order to evaluate the evolutionary divergence of mammalian gene expression. Tissue-specific expression profiles were analyzed for 9,105 human-mouse orthologous gene pairs across 28 tissues. Expression profiles were resolved into species-specific coexpression networks, and the topological properties of the networks were compared between species.
At the global level, the topological properties of the human and mouse gene coexpression networks are, essentially, identical. For instance, both networks have topologies with small-world and scale-free properties as well as closely similar average node degrees, clustering coefficients, and path lengths. However, the human and mouse coexpression networks are highly divergent at the local level: only a small fraction (<10%) of coexpressed gene pair relationships are conserved between the two species. A series of controls for experimental and biological variance show that most of this divergence does not result from experimental noise. We further show that, while the expression divergence between species is genuinely rapid, expression does not evolve free from selective (functional) constraint. Indeed, the coexpression networks analyzed here are demonstrably functionally coherent as indicated by the functional similarity of coexpressed gene pairs, and this pattern is most pronounced in the conserved human-mouse intersection network. Numerous dense network clusters show evidence of dedicated functions, such as spermatogenesis and immune response, that are clearly consistent with the coherence of the expression patterns of their constituent gene members.
The dissonance between global versus local network divergence suggests that the interspecies similarity of the global network properties is of limited biological significance, at best, and that the biologically relevant aspects of the architectures of gene coexpression are specific and particular, rather than universal. Nevertheless, there is substantial evolutionary conservation of the local network structure which is compatible with the notion that gene coexpression networks are subject to purifying selection.
PMCID: PMC1601971  PMID: 16968540

Results 1-3 (3)