Determining the extent of adaptive evolution at the genomic level is central to our understanding of molecular evolution. A suitable observation for this purpose would consist of polymorphic data on a large and unbiased collection of genes from two closely related species, each having a large and stable population. In this study, we sequenced 419 genes from 24 lines of Drosophila melanogaster and its close relatives. Together with data from Drosophila simulans, these data reveal the following. (i) Approximately 10% of the loci in regions of normal recombination are much less polymorphic at silent sites than expected, hinting at the action of selective sweeps. (ii) The level of polymorphism is negatively correlated with the rate of nonsynonymous divergence across loci. Thus, even under strict neutrality, the ratio of amino acid to silent nucleotide changes (A:S) between Drosophila species is expected to be 25-40% higher than the A:S ratio for polymorphism when data are pooled across the genome. (iii) The observed A/S ratio between species among the 419 loci is 28.9% higher than the (adjusted) neutral expectation. We estimate that nearly 30% of the amino acid substitutions between D. melanogaster and its close relatives were adaptive. (iv) This signature of adaptive evolution is observable only in regions of normal recombination. Hence, the low level of polymorphism observed in regions of reduced recombination may not be driven primarily by positive selection. Finally, we discuss the theories and data pertaining to the interpretation of adaptive evolution in genomic studies.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America, 2007, Vol 104, Issue 7, p. 2271-6