Birth of ‘human-specific’ genes during primate evolution
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 wordsanthropoids molecular evolution primates retroposition segmental duplications
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