Interactions between natural selection, recombination and gene density in the genes of Drosophila

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In Drosophila, as in many organisms, natural selection leads to high levels of codon bias in genes that are highly expressed. Thus codon bias is an indicator of the intensity of one kind of selection that is experienced by genes and can be used to assess the impact of other genomic factors on natural selection. Among 13,000 genes in the Drosophila genome, codon bias has a slight positive, and strongly significant, association with recombination-as expected if recombination allows natural selection to act more efficiently when multiple linked sites segregate functional variation. The same reasoning leads to the expectation that the efficiency of selection, and thus average codon bias, should decline with gene density. However, this prediction is not confirmed. Levels of codon bias and gene expression are highest for those genes in an intermediate range of gene density, a pattern that may be the result of a tradeoff between the advantages for gene expression of close gene spacing and disadvantages arising from regulatory conflicts among tightly packed genes. These factors appear to overlay the more subtle effect of linkage among selected sites that gives rise to the association between recombination rate and codon bias.

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