BackgroundDetermining the factors involved in the likelihood of a gene being under adaptive selection is still a challenging goal in Evolutionary Biology. Here, we perform an evolutionary analysis of the human metabolic genes to explore the associations between network structure and the presence and strength of natural selection in the genes whose products are involved in metabolism. Purifying and positive selection are estimated at interspecific (among mammals) and intraspecific (among human populations) levels, and the connections between enzymatic reactions are differentiated between incoming (in-degree) and outgoing (out-degree) links.ResultsWe confirm that purifying selection has been stronger in highly connected genes. Long-term positive selection has targeted poorly connected enzymes, whereas short-term positive selection has targeted different enzymes depending on whether the selective sweep has reached fixation in the population: genes under a complete selective sweep are poorly connected, whereas those under an incomplete selective sweep have high out-degree connectivity. The last steps of pathways are more conserved due to stronger purifying selection, with long-term positive selection targeting preferentially enzymes that catalyze the first steps. However, short-term positive selection has targeted enzymes that catalyze the last steps in the metabolic network. Strong signals of positive selection have been found for metabolic processes involved in lipid transport and membrane fluidity and permeability.ConclusionsOur analysis highlights the importance of analyzing the same biological system at different evolutionary timescales to understand the evolution of metabolic genes and of distinguishing between incoming and outgoing links in a metabolic network. Short-term positive selection has targeted enzymes with a different connectivity profile depending on the completeness of the selective sweep, while long-term positive selection has targeted genes with fewer connections that code for enzymes that catalyze the first steps in the network.ReviewersThis article was reviewed by Diamantis Sellis and Brandon Invergo.