Population genetics studies often make use of a class of nucleotide site free from selective pressures, in order to make inferences about population size changes or natural selection at other sites. If such neutral sites can be identified, they offer the opportunity to avoid any confounding effects of selection. Here, we investigate evolution at putatively neutrally evolving short intronic sites in natural populations of Drosophila melanogaster and Drosophila simulans, in order to understand the properties of spontaneous mutations and the extent of GC-biased gene conversion in these species. Use of data on the genetics of natural populations is advantageous because it integrates information from large numbers of individuals over long timescales. In agreement with direct evidence from observations of spontaneous mutations in Drosophila, we find a bias in the spectrum of mutations toward AT basepairs. In addition, we find that this bias is stronger in the D. melanogaster lineage than in the D. simulans lineage. The evidence for GC-biased gene conversion in Drosophila has been equivocal. Here, we provide evidence for a weak force favoring GC in both species, which is correlated with the GC content of introns and is stronger in D. simulans than in D. melanogaster.
- GC-biased gene conversion