Contribution of homoplasy and of ancestral polymorphism to the evolution of genes in anthropoid primates

Colm O'hUigin, Yoko Satta, Naoyuki Takahata, Jan Klein

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46 Scopus citations


Molecular phylogenies of lineages that split from one another in short succession are often difficult to resolve because different loci and different sites within the same locus yield incongruent relationships. The incongruity is commonly attributed to two causes: differential assortment of ancestral polymorphisms and homoplasy. To assess the relative contribution of these two causes, sequences of 57 segments from 51 loci in six primate lineages (human, chimpanzee, gorilla, orangutan, macaque, and tamarin, abbreviated as H, C, G, O, M, and T, respectively) were subjected to "partitioning" analysis, in which phylogenetically informative sites were identified in all 15 pairwise comparisons of each of the 57 segments and tallied for their support or lack thereof for each of the theoretically possible phylogenies. The six lineages include one of the best known cases of a difficult-to-resolve phylogeny: the trichotomy (H, C, G), in which the three lineages may have diverged from each other within a short period of time. In this period many of the ancestral polymorphisms apparently persisted and yielded phylogenetically incongruent signals. By contrast, no ancestral polymorphism is expected to have survived during the interval separating the divergences of the O, M, and T lineages from the ancestor of the (H, C, G) group. Any phylogenetic incompatibilities at sites in the O, M, and T lineages relative to the (H, C, G) group are therefore presumably the result of homoplasy. The frequency of homoplasy estimated in this manner is unexpectedly high: 12% for the (H, C, G) clade and 19% for the (H, C, G, O) clade. At least three-quarters of the 48% incompatibility observed in the (H, C) clade is attributable to the sorting out of ancestral polymorphisms coupled with intragenic recombination. Possible reasons for this high level of homoplasy in the O, M, and T lineages are discussed, and a computer simulation has been carried out to produce a model explaining the observed data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1501-1513
Number of pages13
JournalMolecular biology and evolution
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2002

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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