A selective difference between human Y-chromosomal DNA haplotypes

Curr Biol. 1998 Dec;8(25):1391-4. doi: 10.1016/s0960-9822(98)00020-7.


DNA analysis is making a valuable contribution to the understanding of human evolution [1]. Much attention has focused on mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) [2] and the Y chromosome [3] [4], both of which escape recombination and so provide information on maternal and paternal lineages, respectively. It is often assumed that the polymorphisms observed at loci on mtDNA and the Y chromosome are selectively neutral and, therefore, that existing patterns of molecular variation can be used to deduce the histories of populations in terms of drift, population movements, and cultural practices. The coalescence of the molecular phylogenies of mtDNA and the Y chromosome to recent common ancestors in Africa [5] [6], for example, has been taken to reflect a recent origin of modern human populations in Africa. An alternative explanation, though, could be the recent selective spread of mtDNA and Y chromosome haplotypes from Africa in a population with a more complex history [7]. It is therefore important to establish whether there are selective differences between classes (haplotypes) of mtDNA and Y chromosomes and, if so, whether these differences could have been sufficient to influence the distributions of haplotypes in existing populations. A precedent for this hypothesis has been established for mtDNA in that one mtDNA background increases susceptibility to Leber hereditary optic neuropathy [8]. Although studies of nucleotide diversity in global samples of Y chromosomes have suggested an absence of recent selective sweeps or bottlenecks [9], selection may, in principle, be very important for the Y chromosome because it carries several loci affecting male fertility [10] [11] and as many as 5% of males are infertile [11] [12]. Here, we show that one class of infertile males, PRKX/PRKY translocation XX males, arises predominantly on a particular Y haplotypic background. Selection is, therefore, acting on Y haplotype distributions in the population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Chromosome Mapping
  • DNA / analysis*
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Female
  • Gene Frequency
  • Genetic Markers
  • Haplotypes
  • Humans
  • Infertility, Male / genetics
  • Male
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases / genetics
  • Translocation, Genetic / genetics
  • X Chromosome
  • Y Chromosome*


  • Genetic Markers
  • DNA
  • PRKX protein, human
  • PRKY protein, human
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases