Positive selection in the human genome: from genome scans to biological significance

Annu Rev Genomics Hum Genet. 2008;9:143-60. doi: 10.1146/annurev.genom.9.081307.164411.


Here we review the evidence for positive selection in the human genome and its role in human evolution and population differentiation. In recent years, there has been a dramatic increase in the use of genome-wide scans to identify adaptively evolving loci in the human genome. Attention is now turning to understanding the biological relevance and adaptive significance of the regions identified as being subject to recent positive selection. Examples of adaptively evolving loci are discussed, specifically LCT and FOXP2. Comprehensive studies of these loci also provide information about the functional relevance of the selected alleles. We discuss current studies examining the role of positive selection in shaping copy number variation and noncoding genomic regions and highlight challenges presented by the study of positive selection in the human genome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Biological / genetics
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Gene Dosage
  • Genetics, Population
  • Genome, Human*
  • Haplotypes
  • Humans
  • Lactase / genetics
  • RNA, Untranslated / genetics
  • Selection, Genetic*


  • FOXP2 protein, human
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors
  • RNA, Untranslated
  • Lactase