University of Oulu

Pentinsaari, M. et al. Molecular evolution of a widely-adopted taxonomic marker (COI) across the animal tree of life. Sci. Rep. 6, 35275; doi: 10.1038/srep35275 (2016)

Molecular evolution of a widely-adopted taxonomic marker (COI) across the animal tree of life

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Author: Pentinsaari, Mikko1; Salmela, Heli2; Mutanen, Marko1;
Organizations: 1Department of Genetics and Physiology, University of Oulu, P.O.Box 3000 (Pentti Kaiteran katu 1), FI-90014, Finland
2Department of Biosciences, Centre of Excellence in Biological Interactions, University of Helsinki, Viikinkaari 1, FI-00014, Finland
3Spatial Foodweb Ecology Group, Department of Agricultural Sciences, University of Helsinki, Latokartanonkaari 5, FI-00014, Finland
4Department of Ecology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Box 7044, 750 07 Uppsala, Sweden
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.7 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Springer Nature, 2016
Publish Date: 2016-12-14


DNA barcodes are widely used for identification and discovery of species. While such use draws on information at the DNA level, the current amassment of ca. 4.7 million COI barcodes also offers a unique resource for exploring functional constraints on DNA evolution. Here, we explore amino acid variation in a crosscut of the entire animal kingdom. Patterns of DNA variation were linked to functional constraints at the level of the amino acid sequence in functionally important parts of the enzyme. Six amino acid sites show variation with possible effects on enzyme function. Overall, patterns of amino acid variation suggest convergent or parallel evolution at the protein level connected to the transition into a parasitic life style. Denser sampling of two diverse insect taxa revealed that the beetles (Coleoptera) show more amino acid variation than the butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera), indicating fundamental difference in patterns of molecular evolution in COI. Several amino acid sites were found to be under notably strong purifying selection in Lepidoptera as compared to Coleoptera. Overall, these findings demonstrate the utility of the global DNA barcode library to extend far beyond identification and taxonomy, and will hopefully be followed by a multitude of work.

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Series: Scientific reports
ISSN: 2045-2322
ISSN-E: 2045-2322
ISSN-L: 2045-2322
Issue: 6
Pages: 1 - 12
Article number: 35275
DOI: 10.1038/srep35275
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
Dataset Reference: Availability of Data. The Metazoa dataset was compiled from publicly available data in the BOLD database (, and the analyzed sequences can be accessed in BOLD with the process ID codes provided in Table S1. The Coleoptera and Lepidoptera sequences are publicly available as BOLD datasets (doi: 10.5883/DS-FCPROT and 10.5883/DS-FILEPRO, respectively) along with the original sequencing trace files, specimen metadata and photographs. The sequences are also available in GenBank (accession numbers provided in the BOLD datasets)
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