Nucleotide Sequence Divergence between Humans and Chimpanzees


Chimpanzee, as the closest relative of human, has long been a focus of molecular evolution. In this article, we review recent findings of five major categories of human–chimpanzee genomic divergence, namely nucleotide substitution, insertion/deletion, duplication, pseudogenization and rearrangement. It is demonstrated that nonsubstitution variations greatly increase the complexity and play a critical role in human–chimpanzee genome evolution. These genetic changes may provide some clues to the evolutionary origins of human‐specific traits.

Keywords: evolutionary genomics; nucleotide substitution; insertion/deletion; duplication; pseudogene; genome rearrangement

Figure 1.

Evolutionary relationships among humans, great apes and other animals. The approximate divergence times are illustrated (the branch lengths are not to the scale). The parentheses indicate species of which the genomic sequences have not been publicly released yet.

Figure 2.

Five types of genetic variations at the DNA level: (a) nucleotide substitutions; (b) insertions and deletions; (c) duplications; (d) pseudogenization and (e) rearrangements. Star signs stand for stop codons and coloured arrows for 5′→3′ directions. Note that indels and duplications can also result from rearrangement events. See text for more details.

Figure 3.

Fixed and nonfixed interspecies genetic differences between humans and chimpanzees.

Figure 4.

(a) Length distribution of Homo‐Pan indels, according to TCSAC ; (b) the numbers (bars) and coverage lengths (lines) of major lineage‐specific repetitive elements in the human and chimpanzee genomes, according to TCSAC .



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Web Links

INDELSCAN; a web server for identification of lineage‐specific and pair‐wise indels

InParanoid; a web server for identification of eukaryotic orthologs

Rapbase; a database for repetitive DNA elements

UCSC genome browser; human–chimpanzee pairwise alignments and multiple sequence alignments of vertebrates

Yale pseudogene database; pseudogenes collection for some eukaryotic genomes

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Chen, Feng‐Chi, and Chuang, Trees‐Juen(Mar 2008) Nucleotide Sequence Divergence between Humans and Chimpanzees. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0020751]