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Multilocus analyses reveal little evidence for lineage-wide adaptive evolution within major clades of soft pines (Pinus subgenus Strobus)

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Abstract

Estimates from molecular data for the fraction of new nonsynonymous mutations that are adaptive vary strongly across plant species. Much of this variation is due to differences in life history strategies as they influence the effective population size (Ne). Ample variation for these estimates, however, remains even when comparisons are made across species with similar values of Ne. An open question thus remains as to why the large disparity for estimates of adaptive evolution exists among plant species. Here, we have estimated the distribution of deleterious fitness effects (DFE) and the fraction of adaptive nonsynonymous substitutions (α) for 11 species of soft pines (subgenus Strobus) using DNA sequence data from 167 orthologous nuclear gene fragments. Most newly arising nonsynonymous mutations were inferred to be so strongly deleterious that they would rarely become fixed. Little evidence for long-term adaptive evolution was detected, as all 11 estimates for α were not significantly different from zero. Nucleotide diversity at synonymous sites, moreover, was strongly correlated with attributes of the DFE across species, thus illustrating a strong consistency with the expectations from the Nearly Neutral Theory of molecular evolution. Application of these patterns to genome-wide expectations for these species, however, was difficult as the loci chosen for the analysis were a biased set of conserved loci, which greatly influenced the estimates of the DFE and α. This implies that genome-wide parameter estimates will need truly genome-wide data, so that many of the existing patterns documented previously for forest trees (e.g. little evidence for signature of selection) may need revision.

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