We describe a model of neutral DNA evolution that allows substitution rates at a site to depend on the two flanking nucleotides ("context"), the branch of the phylogenetic tree, and position within the sequence and implement it by using a flexible and computationally efficient Bayesian Markov chain Monte Carlo approach. We then apply this approach to characterize phylogenetic variation in context-dependent substitution patterns in a 1.7-megabase genomic region in 19 mammalian species. In contrast to other substitution types, CpG transition substitutions have accumulated in a relatively clock-like fashion. More broadly, our results support the notion that context-dependent DNA replication errors, cytosine deamination, and biased gene conversion are major sources of naturally occurring mutations whose relative contributions have varied in mammalian evolution as a result of changes in generation times, effective population sizes, and recombination rates.
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