Evolutionary rates for tuf genes in endosymbionts of aphids.
The gene encoding elongation factor Tu (tuf) in aphid endosymbionts (genus Buchnera) evolves at rates of 1.3 x 10(-10) to 2.5 x 10(-10) nonsynonymous substitutions and 3.9 x 10(-9) to 8.0 x 10(-9) synonymous substitutions per position per year. These rates, which are at present among the most reliable substitution rates for protein-coding genes of bacteria, have been obtained by calibrating the nodes in the phylogenetic tree produced from the Buchnera EF-Tu sequences using divergence times for the corresponding ancestral aphid hosts. We also present data suggesting that the rates of nonsynonymous substitutions are significantly higher in the endosymbiont lineages than in the closely related free-living bacteria Escherichia coli and Salmonella typhimurium. Synonymous substitution rates for Buchnera approximate estimated mutation rates for E. coli and S. typhimurium, as expected if synonymous changes act as neutral mutations in Buchnera. We relate the observed differences in substitution frequencies to the absence of selective codon preferences in Buchnera and to the influence of Muller's ratchet on small asexual populations.