Extreme selection on regions of the X-chromosome of great apes

22 June 2015

BPRC - 1. Extreme selection on regions of the X-chromosome of great apes

BPRC researchers contributed to a new international study, which investigated how selection is operating on the female X-chromosome of great apes. This study, published in PNAS (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25941379), suggests that specific parts of this chromosome in great apes show strong signatures of natural selection resulting in the reduction of diversity.

The great ape family includes our closest relatives: bonobos, chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans. Recently, an international group of researchers, including BPRC staff, has provided an in-depth genetic characterization of the genetic codes from these species (http://www.bprc.nl/en/article/the-genetic-history-of-great-apes). In the PNAS study, researchers have further analyzed the data with a focus on the female sex chromosomes, the X-chromosome. The analysis revealed that large regions of the female sex chromosome are almost devoid of variation in most species. According to the authors this must be due to independent and very strong selective sweeps targeting these regions. It is not understood how this has occurred.