Men are thought to have a higher mutation rate than women and the male-to-female mutation ratio (the 'alpha' value) in primates has been estimated at around 4-6. This estimation has recently been challenged, and it has been suggested that the alpha ratio may be as low as 1.7. In the April 11 Nature, Kateryna Makova and Wen-Hsiung Li provide evidence supporting the higher estimates (Nature 2002, 416:624-626).

Makova & Li sequenced over 10 kilobases of genomic DNA from a non-coding region of the Y chromosome and a homologous region on chromosome 3 in humans and apes (including bonobo, gorilla, siamang and gibbon). They came up with an alpha value of 5.25, confirming the higher earlier estimations supporting and the hypothesis of strong male-driven evolution of hominids.

They suggest that ancient polymorphisms could lead to reduced estimates when comparing closely related species.

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