Chromosomal speciation and molecular divergence - Accelerated evolution in rearranged chromosomes
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Humans and their closest evolutionary relatives, the chimpanzees, differ in ~1.24% of their genomic DNA sequences. The fraction of these changes accumulated during the speciation processes that have separated the two lineages may be of special relevance in understanding the basis of their differences. We analyzed human and chimpanzee sequence data to search for the patterns of divergence and polymorphism predicted by a theoretical model of speciation. According to the model, positively selected changes should accumulate in chromosomes that present fixed structural differences, such as inversions, between the two species. Protein evolution was more than 2.2 times faster in chromosomes that had undergone structural rearrangements compared with colinear chromosomes. Also, nucleotide variability is slightly lower in rearranged chromosomes. These patterns of divergence and polymorphism may be, at least in part, the molecular footprint of speciation events in the human and chimpanzee lineages.