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J Mol Evol. 2000 May;50(5):443-7.

Male-biased mutation rates revealed from Z and W chromosome-linked ATP synthase alpha-subunit (ATP5A1) sequences in birds.

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  • 1Department of Evolutionary Biology, Evolutionary Biology Centre, Uppsala University, Norbyv√§gen 18D, SE-752 36 Uppsala, Sweden.


Whether the mutation rate differs between sexes has been a matter of discussion for years. Molecular analyses of mammals have indicated that males mutate more often than females, as manifested by the faster rate of neutral sequence evolution on the Y chromosome than on the X chromosome. However, these observations can as well be interpreted as specific reduction of the X chromosome mutation rate, which would be adaptive because of reducing the number of slightly deleterious recessive mutations exposed in hemizygote males. Recently, data from birds have suggested that vertebrate mutation rates may indeed be male-biased. In birds, females are the heterogametic sex (ZW), and analyses of the Z-linked CHD1Z gene have shown that it evolves faster than its W-linked and thus female-specific homologue, CHD1W. We have now studied the second avian gene known to exist in a copy on the nonrecombining regions of both the Z and the W chromosome, viz., the ATP synthase alpha-subunit (ATP5A1). In independent comparisons of three pairs of bird species from divergent lineages, intron sequences of the Z-linked copy (ATP5A1Z) were consistently found to evolve faster than the W-linked copy (ATP5A1W). From these data we calculated male-to-female mutation rate ratios (alpha) of 1.8, 2.3, and 5.0 in Galliform, Anseriform, and Ciconiiform lineages, respectively. Therefore, this study provides independent support for a male-biased mutation rate in birds.

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