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Am J Hum Genet. 2008 Apr;82(4):895-902. doi: 10.1016/j.ajhg.2008.01.019. Epub 2008 Mar 27.

A Bayesian evaluation of human mitochondrial substitution rates.

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  • 1Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 3PS, UK.


Accurate estimates of mitochondrial substitution rates are central to molecular studies of human evolution, but meaningful comparisons of published studies are problematic because of the wide range of methodologies and data sets employed. These differences are nowhere more pronounced than among rates estimated from phylogenies, genealogies, and pedigrees. By using a data set comprising mitochondrial genomes from 177 humans, we estimate substitution rates for various data partitions by using Bayesian phylogenetic analysis with a relaxed molecular clock. We compare the effect of multiple internal calibrations with the customary human-chimpanzee split. The analyses reveal wide variation among estimated substitution rates and divergence times made with different partitions and calibrations, with evidence of substitutional saturation, natural selection, and significant rate heterogeneity among lineages and among sites. Collectively, the results support dates for migration out of Africa and the common mitochondrial ancestor of humans that are considerably more recent than most previous estimates. Our results also demonstrate that human mitochondrial genomes exhibit a number of molecular evolutionary complexities that necessitate the use of sophisticated analytical models for genetic analyses.

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