Nucleotide Composition Bias Affects Amino Acid Content in Proteins Coded by Animal Mitochondria
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We show that in animal mitochondria homologous genes that differ in guanine plus cytosine (G + C) content code for proteins differing in amino acid content in a manner that relates to the G + C content of the codons. DNA sequences were analyzed using square plots, a new method that combines graphical visualization and statistical analysis of compositional differences in both DNA and protein. Square plots divide codons into four groups based on first and second position A + T (adenine plus thymine) and G + C content and indicate differences in amino acid content when comparing sequences that differ in G + C content. When sequences are compared using these plots, the amino acid content is shown to correlate with the nucleotide bias of the genes. This amino acid effect is shown in all protein-coding genes in the mitochondrial genome, including cox I, cox II, and cyt b, mitochondrial genes which are commonly used for phylogenetic studies. Furthermore, nucleotide content differences are shown to affect the content of all amino acids with A + T- and G + C-rich codons. We speculate that phylogenetic analysis of genes so affected may tend erroneously to indicate relatedness (or lack thereof) based only on amino acid content.
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