Let's say I want to construct a phylogenetic tree based on orthologous nucleotide sequences; I do not want to use protein sequences to have a better resolution. These species have different GC-content.
If we use a straightforward approach like maximum likelihood with JC69 or any other classical nucleotide model, conserved protein coding sequences of distant species with similar GC-content will artificially cluster together. This will happen because GC-content will mainly affect wobbling codon positions, and they will look similar on the nucleotide level.
What are possible ways to overcome this? I considered the following options so far:
Using protein sequence. This is possible of course, but we lose a lot of information on the short distance. Not applicable to non-coding sequences.
Recoding. In this approach C and T can be combined into a single pyrimidine state Y (G and A could be also combined in some implementations). This sounds interesting, but, first, we also lose some information here. Mathematical properties of the resulting process are not clear. As a result, this approach is not widely used.
Excluding third codon position from the analysis. Losing some short-distance information again. Also, not all synonymous substitution are specific to the third codon positions, so we still expect to have some bias. Not applicable to non-coding sequence.
It should be possible in theory to have a model which allows shifts in GC-content. This will be a non time-reversible Markov process. As far as I understand there are some computational difficulties estimating likelihood for such models.