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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005 Mar 15;102(11):4063-7. Epub 2005 Feb 23.

Weak selection revealed by the whole-genome comparison of the X chromosome and autosomes of human and chimpanzee.

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  • 1Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL 60637, USA.


The effect of weak selection driving genome evolution has attracted much attention in the last decade, but the task of measuring the strength of such selection is particularly difficult. A useful approach is to contrast the evolution of X-linked and autosomal genes in two closely related species in a whole-genome analysis. If the fitness effect of mutations is recessive, X-linked genes should evolve more rapidly than autosomal genes when the mutations are advantageous, and they should evolve more slowly than autosomal genes when the mutations are deleterious. We found synonymous substitutions on the X chromosome of human and chimpanzee to be less frequent than those on the autosomes. When calibrated against substitutions in the intergenic regions and pseudogenes to filter out the differences in the mutation rate and ancestral population size between X chromosomes and autosomes, X-linked synonymous substitutions are still 10% less frequent. At least 90% of the synonymous substitutions in human and chimpanzee are estimated to be deleterious, but the fitness effect is weaker than the effect of genetic drift. However, X-linked nonsynonymous substitutions are approximately 30% more frequent than autosomal ones, suggesting the fixation of advantageous mutations that are recessive.

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