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Mamm Genome. 1997 Feb;8(2):134-8.

Analysis of mutation rates in the SMCY/SMCX genes shows that mammalian evolution is male driven.

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  • 1Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas 77030, USA.


Mammalian evolution is believed to be male driven because the greater number of germ cell divisions per generation in males increases the opportunity for errors in DNA replication. Since the Y Chromosome (Chr) replicates exclusively in males, its genes should also evolve faster than X or autosomal genes. In addition, estimating the overall male-to-female mutation ratio (alpha m) is of great importance as a large alpha m implies that replication-independent mutagenic events play a relatively small role in evolution. A small alpha m suggests that the impact of these factors may, in fact, be significant. In order to address this problem, we have analyzed the rates of evolution in the homologous X-Y common SMCX/SMCY genes from three different species--mouse, human, and horse. The SMC genes were chosen because the X and Y copies are highly homologous, well conserved in evolution, and in all probability functionally interchangeable. Sequence comparisons and analysis of synonymous substitutions in approximately 1kb of the 5' coding region of the SMC genes reveal that the Y-linked copies are evolving approximately 1.8 times faster than their X homologs. The male-to-female mutation ratio alpha m was estimated to be 3. These data support the hypothesis that mammalian evolution is male driven. However, the ratio value is far smaller than suggested in earlier works, implying significance of replication-independent mutagenic events in evolution.

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