Neutral evolution of Robustness in Drosophila microRNA precursors

Nicholas Price, Reed Cartwright, Niv Sabath, Dan Graur, Ricardo B R Azevedo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

17 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Mutational robustness describes the extent to which a phenotype remains unchanged in the face of mutations. Theory predicts that the strength of direct selection for mutational robustness is at most the magnitude of the rate of deleterious mutation. As far as nucleic acid sequences are concerned, only long sequences in organisms with high deleterious mutation rates and large population sizes are expected to evolve mutational robustness. Surprisingly, recent studies have concluded that molecules that meet none of these conditions - the microRNA precursors (pre-miRNAs) of multicellular eukaryotes - show signs of selection for mutational and/or environmental robustness. To resolve the apparent disagreement between theory and these studies, we have reconstructed the evolutionary history of Drosophila pre-miRNAs and compared the robustness of each sequence to that of its reconstructed ancestor. In addition, we "replayed the tape" of pre-miRNA evolution via simulation under different evolutionary assumptions and compared these alternative histories with the actual one. We found that Drosophila pre-miRNAs have evolved under strong purifying selection against changes in secondary structure. Contrary to earlier claims, there is no evidence that these RNAs have been shaped by either direct or congruent selection for any kind of robustness. Instead, the high robustness of Drosophila pre-miRNAs appears to be mostly intrinsic and likely a consequence of selection for functional structures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2115-2123
Number of pages9
JournalMolecular Biology and Evolution
Volume28
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2011
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

Genetic Drift
MicroRNAs
microRNA
Drosophila
mutation
history
Mutation Rate
nucleic acids
eukaryotic cells
ancestry
population size
RNA
secondary structure
phenotype
nucleic acid
eukaryote
organisms
Population Density
Eukaryota
Nucleic Acids

Keywords

  • neutral evolution
  • pre-microRNA
  • purifying selection
  • robustness
  • secondary structure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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

Cite this

Neutral evolution of Robustness in Drosophila microRNA precursors. / Price, Nicholas; Cartwright, Reed; Sabath, Niv; Graur, Dan; Azevedo, Ricardo B R.

In: Molecular Biology and Evolution, Vol. 28, No. 7, 07.2011, p. 2115-2123.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Price, Nicholas ; Cartwright, Reed ; Sabath, Niv ; Graur, Dan ; Azevedo, Ricardo B R. / Neutral evolution of Robustness in Drosophila microRNA precursors. In: Molecular Biology and Evolution. 2011 ; Vol. 28, No. 7. pp. 2115-2123.
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