Difference in larval type explains patterns of nonsynonymous substitutions in two ancient paralogs of the histone H3 gene in sea stars

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Paralogous genes frequently show differences in patterns and rates of substitution that are typically attributed to different selection regimes, mutation rates, or local recombination rates. Here, two anciently diverged paralogous copies of the histone H3 gene in sea stars, the tandem-repetitive early-stage gene and a newly isolated gene with lower copy number that was termed the "putative late-stage histone H3 gene" were analyzed in 69 species with varying mode of larval development. The two genes showed differences in relative copy number, overall substitution rates, nucleotide composition, and codon usage, but similar patterns of relative nonsynonymous substitution rates, when analyzed by the d(N)/d(S) ratio. Sea stars with a nonpelagic and nonfeeding larval type (i.e., brooding lineages) were observed to have d(N)/d(S) ratios that were larger than for nonbrooders but equal between the two paralogs. This finding suggested that demographic differences between brooding and nonbrooding lineages were responsible for the elevated d(N)/d(S) ratios observed for brooders and refuted a suggestion from a previous analysis of the early-stage gene that the excess nonsynonymous substitutions were due to either (1) gene expression differences at the larval stage between brooders and nonbrooders or (2) the highly repetitive structure of the early-stage histone H3 gene.

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Evolution & development

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