4 years ago

Evidence for the selective basis of transition to transversion substitution bias in two RNA viruses.

Lauring, Lyons
The substitution rates of transitions are higher than expected by chance relative to those of transversions. Many have argued that selection disfavors transversions, as nonsynonymous transversions are less likely to conserve biochemical properties of the original amino acid. Only recently has it become feasible to directly test this selective hypothesis by comparing the fitness effects of a large number of transition and transversion mutations. For example, a recent study of six viruses and one beta-lactamase gene did not find evidence supporting the selective hypothesis. Here we analyze the relative fitness effects of transition and transversion mutations from our recently published genome-wide study of mutational fitness effects in influenza virus. In contrast to prior work, we find that transversions are significantly more detrimental than transitions. Using what we believe to be an improved statistical framework, we also identify a similar trend in two HIV datasets. We further demonstrate a fitness difference in transition and transversion mutations using four deep mutational scanning datasets of influenza virus and HIV, which provided adequate statistical power. We find that three of the most commonly cited radical/conservative amino acid categories are predictive of fitness, supporting their utility in studies of positive selection and codon usage bias. We conclude that selection is a major contributor to the transition:transversion substitution bias in viruses and that this effect is only partially explained by the greater likelihood of transversion mutations to cause radical as opposed to conservative amino acid changes.

Publisher URL: http://doi.org/10.1093/molbev/msx251

DOI: 10.1093/molbev/msx251

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