Comparative nuclear and mitochondrial genome diversity in humans and chimpanzees

Mol Biol Evol. 1997 Jul;14(7):707-16. doi: 10.1093/oxfordjournals.molbev.a025810.


Restriction mapping and sequencing have shown that humans have substantially lower levels of mitochondrial genome diversity (d) than chimpanzees. In contrast, humans have substantially higher levels of heterozygosity (H) at protein-coding loci, suggesting a higher level of diversity in the nuclear genome. To investigate the discrepancy further, we sequenced a segment of the mitochondrial genome control region (CR) from 49 chimpanzees. The majority of these were from the Pan troglodytes versus subspecies, which was underrepresented in previous studies. We also estimated the average heterozygosity at 60 short tandem repeat (STR) loci in both species. For a total sample of 115 chimpanzees, d = 0.075 +/0 0.037, compared to 0.020 +/- 0.011 for a sample of 1,554 humans. The heterozygosity of human STR loci is significantly higher than that of chimpanzees. Thus, the higher level of nuclear genome diversity relative to mitochondrial genome diversity in humans is not restricted to protein-coding loci. It seems that humans, not chimpanzees, have an unusual d/H ratio, since the ratio in chimpanzees is similar to that in other catarrhines. This discrepancy in the relative levels of nuclear and mitochondrial genome diversity in the two species cannot be explained by differences in mutation rate. However, it may result from a combination of factors such as a difference in the extent of sex ratio disparity, the greater effect of population subdivision on mitochondrial than on nuclear genome diversity, a difference in the relative levels of male and female migration among subpopulations, diversifying selection acting to increase variation in the nuclear genome, and/or directional selection acting to reduce variation in the mitochondrial genome.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics*
  • Female
  • Heterozygote
  • Hominidae / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Minisatellite Repeats
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Pan troglodytes / genetics*
  • Phylogeny
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Sequence Homology, Nucleic Acid


  • DNA, Mitochondrial

Associated data

  • GENBANK/U84293
  • GENBANK/U84294
  • GENBANK/U84295
  • GENBANK/U84296
  • GENBANK/U84297
  • GENBANK/U84298
  • GENBANK/U84299
  • GENBANK/U84300
  • GENBANK/U84301
  • GENBANK/U84302
  • GENBANK/U84303
  • GENBANK/U84304
  • GENBANK/U84305
  • GENBANK/U84306
  • GENBANK/U84307
  • GENBANK/U84308
  • GENBANK/U84309
  • GENBANK/U84310
  • GENBANK/U84311
  • GENBANK/U84312
  • GENBANK/U84313
  • GENBANK/U84314
  • GENBANK/U84315
  • GENBANK/U84316
  • GENBANK/U84317
  • GENBANK/U84318
  • GENBANK/U84319
  • GENBANK/U84320
  • GENBANK/U84321
  • GENBANK/U84322