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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1988 Apr;85(8):2658-61.

Sequence analyses of herpesviral enzymes suggest an ancient origin for human sexual behavior.

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Department of Microbiology, University of Mississippi Medical Center, Jackson 39216.


Comparison of the amino acid sequences of the deoxythymidine kinases of herpes simplex (HSV) and of marmoset herpes viruses (MHV) suggests a divergence time of 8 to 10 million years ago for HSV-1 and -2. Like MHV, HSV-1 and -2 cause local infections in their natural hosts, and direct contact between two individuals during the brief period of infectivity is needed for transmission. Because B virus, a nearer relative of HSV, depends on both oral and genital routes of transmission, we postulate that ancestral HSV (aHSV) was similar, and that for HSV-1 and -2 to diverge, genital and oral sites had to become microbiologically somewhat isolated from each other, while oral--oral and genital--genital contact had to be facilitated to maintain both aHSV strains. We propose that acquisition of continual sexual attractiveness by the ancestral human female and the adoption of close face-to-face mating, two hallmarks of human sexual behavior, provided the conditions for the divergence.

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