Effects of metabolic rate on protein evolution

James F. Gillooly*, Michael W. McCoy, Andrew P. Allen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


Since the modern evolutionary synthesis was first proposed early in the twentieth century, attention has focused on assessing the relative contribution of mutation versus natural selection on protein evolution. Here we test a model that yields general quantitative predictions on rates of protein evolution by combining principles of individual energetics with Kimura's neutral theory. The model successfully predicts much of the heterogeneity in rates of protein evolution for diverse eukaryotes (i.e. fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals) from different thermal environments. Data also show that the ratio of non-synonymous to synonymous nucleotide substitution is independent of body size, and thus presumably of effective population size. These findings indicate that rates of protein evolution are largely controlled by mutation rates, which in turn are strongly influenced by individual metabolic rate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)655-659
Number of pages5
JournalBiology Letters
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 22 Dec 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Metabolic theory
  • Molecular evolution
  • Mutation
  • Neutral theory
  • Scaling


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