J Bacteriol 191(1) , 65-73 (Jan 2009)
In order to explore microevolutionary trends in bacteria and archaea, we constructed a data set of 41 alignable tight genome clusters (ATGCs). We show that the ratio of the medians of nonsynonymous to synonymous substitution rates (dN/dS) that is used as a measure of the purifying selection pressure on protein sequences is a stable characteristic of the ATGCs. In agreement with previous findings, parasitic bacteria, notwithstanding the sometimes dramatic genome shrinkage caused by gene loss, are typically subjected to relatively weak purifying selection, presumably owing to relatively small effective population sizes and frequent bottlenecks. However, no evidence of genome streamlining caused by strong selective pressure was found in any of the ATGCs. On the contrary, a significant positive correlation between the genome size, as well as gene size, and selective pressure was observed, although a variety of free-living prokaryotes with very close selective pressures span nearly the entire range of genome sizes. In addition, we examined the connections between the sequence evolution rate and other genomic features. Although gene order changes much faster than protein sequences during the evolution of prokaryotes, a strong positive correlation was observed between the “rearrangement distance” and the amino acid distance, suggesting that at least some of the events leading to genome rearrangement are subjected to the same type of selective constraints as the evolution of amino acid sequences.