Rates of nucleotide substitution in primates and rodents and the generation-time effect hypothesis

Mol Phylogenet Evol. 1996 Feb;5(1):182-7. doi: 10.1006/mpev.1996.0012.


DNA sequence data from introns, flanking regions, and the eta globin pseudogene region all show a significantly higher rate of nucleotide substitution in the Old World monkey lineage than in the human lineage after the separation of the two lineages, or, in other words, the data support the hominoid rate-slowdown hypothesis. Data from both protein sequences and DNA sequences show that the rate of evolution is significantly higher in the rodent lineage than in the primate lineage. Furthermore, DNA sequences from introns show that the rate of nucleotide substitution is at least two times higher in rodents than in higher primates. The male-to-female ratio of mutation rate is estimated to be between 3 and 6 in higher primates, whereas it is only 2 in mice and rats. These ratios are similar to the corresponding male-to-female ratios of germ cell divisions in higher primates and in rodents, suggesting that errors in DNA replication during germ cell division are the primary source of mutation, or, in other words, mutation is largely DNA replication-dependent. This conclusion provides further support for the generation-time effect hypothesis.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA / genetics
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Female
  • Globins / genetics
  • Hominidae / genetics
  • Humans
  • Introns
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Models, Genetic
  • Mutation
  • Primates / genetics*
  • Pseudogenes
  • Rats
  • Rodentia / genetics*
  • Sex Chromosomes / genetics
  • Time Factors


  • Globins
  • DNA