There is considerable variation in the rate at which different proteins evolve. Why is this? Classically, it has been considered that the density of functionally important sites must predict rates of protein evolution. Likewise, amino acid choice is usually assumed to reflect optimal protein function. In the present article, we briefly review evidence suggesting that this protein function-centred view is too simplistic. In particular, we concentrate on how selection acting during the protein's production history can also affect protein evolutionary rates and amino acid choice. Exploring the role of selection at the DNA and RNA level, we specifically address how the need (i) to specify exonic splice enhancer motifs in pre-mRNA, and (ii) to ensure nucleosome positioning on DNA have an impact on amino acid choice and rates of evolution. For both, we review evidence that sequence affected by more than one coding demand is particularly constrained. Strikingly, in mammals, splicing-related constraints are quantitatively as important as expression parameters in predicting rates of protein evolution. These results indicate that there is substantially more to protein evolution than protein functional constraints.

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