Selection and Slippage Creating Serine Homopolymers
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Highly repetitive sequence within proteins is an abundant feature yet is considered by some to be the protein equivalent of "junk DNA." Homopolymer sequences, the most highly repetitive of this group, are typically encoded by trinucleotide repeats at the DNA level. It is thought that many of these sequences are produced by a replicative slippage mechanism. Recent studies suggest that these highly mutable regions within proteins may allow for rapid morphological evolution emerging from the increased variability afforded by such coding structures. However, in a homopolymer, it is difficult to determine if the repeated amino acid is due to slippage at the DNA level or due to selection at the protein level. Here we develop and test a model to detect cases for which the homopolymer tract has clearly been selected for, with no evidence of slippage at the DNA level. The polyserine tract within the phosphatidylserine receptor protein is used as an excellent example of one such case.
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