Random mutations of the first nucleotide of a coding triplet alter the hydropathic character of 27 % of the hydrophobic amino acids and of 23 % of the hydrophilic amino acids, while random mutations of the second nucleotide alter the hydropathic character of 82 % of the hydrophobic amino acids and of 47 % of the hydrophilic amino acids. In cases of a change of the hydropathic character, a second random mutation in the previously unmutated first or second nucleotide causes reversion to the original character of an additional 11 % of the originally hydrophobic-coding triplets and an additional 14 % of the originally hydrophilic-coding triplets (on average). Thus, a selection oriented towards the preservation of the hydropathic character of amino acids may be expected to eventually result in a higher conservation of the second nucleotide (as compared to the first). In the case of uncorrected mutations of one of the two first nucleotides, it may be expected that appropriate second mutations in the other unaffected nucleotide will be positively selected. This would result in a positive correlation between the conservation/mutation indexes of the two first nucleotides, as these would be prevailingly either both conserved or both mutated. We examined six groups of coding mRNA sequences: chemokine CXC 1 and 4 and formyl peptide receptors; a group comprising different receptors of the rhodopsin-like superfamily, together with some viral sequences which share significant homologies with these receptors; a group of viral sequences with homologies with the rhodopsin-like receptors; a group of solute carriers. In all the experimental groups the second nucleotide of the triplet was the most conserved and a significant positive correlation existed between conservation/mutation indexes of the two first nucleotides. Similar conservation/mutation patterns could be of more general occurrence in the genome, as a consequence of selection processes.
Keywords: Mutations, selection, evolution, hydrophobicity, hydrophilicity, formyl peptide receptors, chemokine receptors, seven-TM receptors, viruses, solute carriers
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