Amarkovian analysis of bacterial genome sequence constraints

Aaron D. Skewes, Roy D. Welch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The arrangement of nucleotides within a bacterial chromosome is influenced by numerous factors. The degeneracy of the third codon within each reading frame allows some flexibility of nucleotide selection; however, the third nucleotide in the triplet of each codon is at least partly determined by the preceding two. This is most evident in organisms with a strong G+C bias, as the degenerate codon must contribute disproportionately to maintaining that bias. Therefore, a correlation exists between the first two nucleotides and the third in all open reading frames. If the arrangement of nucleotides in a bacterial chromosome is represented as a Markov process, we would expect that the correlation would be completely captured by a second-orderMarkov model and an increase in the order of the model (e.g., third-, fourth-.. order) would not capture any additional uncertainty in the process. In this manuscript, we present the results of a comprehensive study of the Markov property that exists in the DNA sequences of 906 bacterial chromosomes. All of the 906 bacterial chromosomes studied exhibit a statistically significant Markov property that extends beyond second-order, and therefore cannot be fully explained by codon usage. An unrooted tree containing all 906 bacterial chromosomes based on their transition probability matrices of third-order shares ̃25% similarity to a tree based on sequence homologies of 16S rRNA sequences. This congruence to the 16S rRNA tree is greater than for trees based on lower-order models (e.g., second-order), and higher-order models result in diminishing improvements in congruence. A nucleotide correlation most likely exists within every bacterial chromosome that extends past three nucleotides. This correlation places significant limits on the number of nucleotide sequences that can represent probable bacterial chromosomes. Transition matrix usage is largely conserved by taxa, indicating that this property is likely inherited, however some important exceptions exist that may indicate the convergent evolution of some bacteria.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere127
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2013


  • Bacteria
  • Markov model
  • Sequencing
  • Topology
  • rRNA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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