Strong male bias drives germline mutation in chimpanzees

Science  13 Jun 2014:
Vol. 344, Issue 6189, pp. 1272-1275
DOI: 10.1126/science.344.6189.1272

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Male chimps evolve faster with age

Chimpanzees are evolving faster than humans. Venn et al. examined the genetics of three generations of western chimpanzees and found that overall the mutation rate is similar between humans and chimpanzees. However, while male humans had three to four times the mutation rate of females, in chimpanzees the sex difference was even higher, with a male mutation rate five to six times that of females. Blame aging dads. For every extra year of the father's age, baby chimpanzees exhibited approximately one extra mutation. This finding will inform future studies of primate evolution.

Science, this issue p. 1272


Germline mutation determines rates of molecular evolution, genetic diversity, and fitness load. In humans, the average point mutation rate is 1.2 × 10−8 per base pair per generation, with every additional year of father’s age contributing two mutations across the genome and males contributing three to four times as many mutations as females. To assess whether such patterns are shared with our closest living relatives, we sequenced the genomes of a nine-member pedigree of Western chimpanzees, Pan troglodytes verus. Our results indicate a mutation rate of 1.2 × 10−8 per base pair per generation, but a male contribution seven to eight times that of females and a paternal age effect of three mutations per year of father’s age. Thus, mutation rates and patterns differ between closely related species.

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