Birth of ‘human-specific’ genes during primate evolution

  • Jean-Louis Nahon
Part of the Contemporary Issues in Genetics and Evolution book series (CIGE, volume 10)


Humans and other Anthropoids share very similar chromosome structure and genomic sequence as seen in the 98.5% homology at the DNA level between us and Great Apes. However, anatomical and behavioral traits distinguish Homo sapiens from his closest relatives. I review here several recent studies that address the issue by using different approaches: large-scale sequence comparison (first release) between human and chimpanzee, characterization of recent segmental duplications in the human genome and analysis of exemplary gene families. As a major breakthrough in the field, the heretical concept of ‘human-specific’ genes has recently received some supporting data. In addition, specific chromosomal regions have been mapped that display all the features of ‘gene nurseries’ and could have played a major role in gene innovation and speciation during primate evolution. A model is proposed that integrates all known molecular mechanisms that can create new genes in the human lineage.

Key words

anthropoids molecular evolution primates retroposition segmental duplications 


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jean-Louis Nahon
    • 1
  1. 1.Institut de Pharmacologie Moléculaire et CellulaireCNRS UMR 6097ValbonneFrance

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