The primary role of a protein coding gene is to encode amino acids. Therefore, synonymous sites of codons, which do not change the encoded amino acid, are regarded as evolving neutrally. However, if a certain region of a protein coding gene contains a functional nucleotide element (e.g. splicing signals), synonymous sites in the region may have selective pressure. The existence of such elements would be detected by searching regions of low nucleotide substitution. We explored invariant nucleotide sequences in 10 790 orthologous genes of six mammalian species (Homo sapiens, Macaca mulatta, Mus musculus, Rattus norvegicus, Bos taurus, and Canis familiaris), and extracted 4150 sequences whose conservation is significantly stronger than other regions of the gene and named them significantly conserved coding sequences (SCCSs). SCCSs are observed in 2273 genes. The genes are mainly involved with development, transcriptional regulation, and the neurons, and are expressed in the nervous system and the head and neck organs. No strong influence of conventional factors that affect synonymous substitution was observed in SCCSs. These results imply that SCCSs may have double function as nucleotide element and protein coding sequence and retained in the course of mammalian evolution
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