Heterogeneity in Regional GC Content and Differential Usage of Codons and Amino Acids in GC-Poor and GC-Rich Regions of the Genome of Apis mellifera

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The honeybee (Apis mellifera) has a genome with a wide variation in GC content showing 2 clear modal GC values, in some ways reminiscent of an isochore-like structure. To gain insight into causes and consequences of this pattern, we used a comparative approach to study the genome-wide alignment of primarily coding sequence of A. mellifera with Drosophila melanogaster and Anopheles gambiae. The latter 2 species show a higher average GC content than A. mellifera and no indications of bimodality, suggesting that the GC-poor mode is a derived condition in honeybee. In A. mellifera, synonymous sites of genes generally adopt the GC content of the region in which they reside. A large proportion of genes in GC-poor regions have not been assigned to the honeybee assembly because of the low sequence complexity of their genome neighborhood. The synonymous substitution rate between A. mellifera and the other species is very close to saturation, but analyses of nonsynonymous substitutions as well as amino acid substitutions indicate that the GC-poor regions are not evolving faster than the GC-rich regions. We describe the codon usage and amino acid usage and show that they are remarkably heterogeneous within the honeybee genome between the 2 different GC regions. Specifically, the genes located in GC-poor regions show a much larger deviation in both codon usage bias and amino acid usage from the Dipterans than the genes located in the GC-rich regions.

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