Genomic Selective Constraints in Murid Noncoding DNA

Daniel Gaffney, Peter Keightley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent work has suggested that there are many more selectively constrained, functional noncoding than coding sites in mammalian genomes. However, little is known about how selective constraint varies amongst different classes of noncoding DNA. We estimated the magnitude of selective constraint on a large dataset of mouse-rat gene orthologs and their surrounding noncoding DNA. Our analysis indicates that there are more than three times as many selectively constrained, nonrepetitive sites within noncoding DNA as in coding DNA in murids. The majority of these constrained noncoding sites appear to be located within intergenic regions, at distances greater than 5 kilobases from known genes. Our study also shows that in murids, intron length and mean intronic selective constraint are negatively correlated with intron ordinal number. Our results therefore suggest that functional intronic sites tend to accumulate toward the 5′ end of murid genes. Our analysis also reveals that mean number of selectively constrained noncoding sites varies substantially with the function of the adjacent gene. We find that, among others, developmental and neuronal genes are associated with the greatest numbers of putatively functional noncoding sites compared with genes involved in electron transport and a variety of metabolic processes. Combining our estimates of the total number of constrained coding and noncoding bases we calculate that over twice as many deleterious mutations have occurred in intergenic regions as in known genic sequence and that the total genomic deleterious point mutation rate is 0.91 per diploid genome, per generation. This estimated rate is over twice as large as a previous estimate in murids.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere204
Number of pages12
JournalPLoS Genetics
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2006

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