Male-driven evolution


The strength of male-driven evolution – that is, the magnitude of the sex ratio of mutation rate – has been a controversial issue, particularly in primates. While earlier studies estimated the male-to-female ratio (α) of mutation rate to be about 4–6 in higher primates, two recent studies claimed that α is only about 2 in humans. However, a more recent comparison of mutation rates between a noncoding fragment on Y and a homologous region on chromosome 3 gave an estimate of α = 5.3, reinstating strong male-driven evolution in hominoids. Several studies investigated variation in mutation rates among genomic regions that may not be related to sex differences and found strong evidence for such variation. The causes for regional variation in mutation rate are not clear but GC content and recombination are two possible causes. Thus, while the strong male-driven evolution in higher primates suggests that errors during DNA replication in the germ cells are the major source of mutation, the contribution of some replication-independent factors such as recombination may also be important.

Current Opinion in Genetics & Development