Intraspecific nuclear DNA variation in Drosophila

Etsuko N. Moriyama, Jeffrey R. Powell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

363 Scopus citations


We have summarized and analyzed all available nuclear DNA sequence polymorphism studies for three species of Drosophila, D. melanogaster (24 loci), D. simulans (12 loci), and D. pseudoobscura (5 loci). Our major findings are: (1) The average nucleotide heterozygosity ranges from about 0.4% to 2% depending upon species and function of the region, i.e., coding or noncoding. (2) Compared to D. simulans and D. pseudoobscura (which are about equally variable), D. melanogaster displays a low degree of DNA polymorphism. (3) Noncoding introns and 3' and 5' flanking DNA shows less polymorphism than silent sites within coding DNA. (4) X-linked genes are less variable than autosomal genes. (5) Transition (Ts) and transversion (Tv) polymorphisms are about equally frequent in non-coding DNA and at fourfold degenerate sites in coding DNA while Ts polymorphisms outnumber Tv polymorphisms by about 2:1 in total coding DNA. The increased Ts polymorphism in coding regions is likely due to the structure of the genetic code: silent changes are more often Ts's than are replacement substitutions. (6) The proportion of replacement polymorphisms is significantly higher in D. melanogaster than in D. simulans. (7) The level of variation in coding DNA and the adjacent noncoding DNA is significantly correlated indicating regional effects, most notably recombination. (8) Surprisingly, the level of polymorphism at silent coding sites in D. melanogaster is positively correlated with degree of codon usage bias. (9) Three proposed tests of the neutral theory of DNA polymorphisms have been performed on the data: Tajima's test, the HKA test, and the McDonald-Kreitman test. About half of the loci fail to conform to the expectations of neutral theory by one of the tests. We conclude that many variables are affecting levels of DNA polymorphism in Drosophila, from properties of nucleotides to population history and, perhaps, mating structure. No simple, all encompassing explanation satisfactorily accounts for the data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)261-277
Number of pages17
JournalMolecular biology and evolution
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1996
Externally publishedYes


  • DNA polymorphism
  • Drosophila
  • codon usage bias
  • neutral theory
  • recombination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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