Similar efficacies of selection shape mitochondrial and nuclear genes in both Drosophila melanogaster and Homo sapiens

Brandon S. Cooper, Chad R. Burrus, Chao Ji, Matthew W. Hahn, Kristi L. Montooth

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38 Scopus citations


Deleterious mutations contribute to polymorphism even when selection effectively prevents their fixation. The efficacy of selection in removing deleterious mitochondrial mutations from populations depends on the effective population size (Ne) of the mitochondrial DNA and the degree to which a lack of recombination magnifies the effects of linked selection. Using complete mitochondrial genomes from Drosophila melanogaster and nuclear data available from the same samples, we reexamine the hypothesis that nonrecombining animal mitochondrial DNA harbor an excess of deleterious polymorphisms relative to the nuclear genome. We find no evidence of recombination in the mitochondrial genome, and the muchreduced level of mitochondrial synonymous polymorphism relative to nuclear genes is consistent with a reduction in Ne. Nevertheless, we find that the neutrality index, a measure of the excess of nonsynonymous polymorphism relative to the neutral expectation, is only weakly significantly different between mitochondrial and nuclear loci. This difference is likely the result of the larger proportion of beneficial mutations in X-linked relative to autosomal loci, and we find little to no difference between mitochondrial and autosomal neutrality indices. Reanalysis of published data from Homo sapiens reveals a similar lack of a difference between the two genomes, although previous studies have suggested a strong difference in both species. Thus, despite a smaller Ne, mitochondrial loci of both flies and humans appear to experience similar efficacies of purifying selection as do loci in the recombining nuclear genome.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2165-2176
Number of pages12
JournalG3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2015


  • Cytoplasmic sweep
  • MtDNA
  • Neutrality index
  • Tests of selection


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