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Journal Articles PeerJ Year : 2018

Positive selection on human gamete-recognition genes

Michael Hart
  • Function : Author
Daryn Stover
  • Function : Author
Vanessa Guerra
  • Function : Author
Sahar Mozaffari
  • Function : Author
Carole Ober
  • Function : Author
Carina Mugal


Coevolution of genes that encode interacting proteins expressed on the surfaces of sperm and eggs can lead to variation in reproductive compatibility between mates and reproductive isolation between members of different species. Previous studies in mice and other mammals have focused in particular on evidence for positive or diversifying selection that shapes the evolution of genes that encode sperm-binding proteins expressed in the egg coat or zona pellucida (ZP). By fitting phylogenetic models of codon evolution to data from the 1000 Genomes Project, we identified candidate sites evolving under diversifying selection in the human genes ZP3 and ZP2 . We also identified one candidate site under positive selection in C4BPA , which encodes a repetitive protein similar to the mouse protein ZP3R that is expressed in the sperm head and binds to the ZP at fertilization. Results from several additional analyses that applied population genetic models to the same data were consistent with the hypothesis of selection on those candidate sites leading to coevolution of sperm- and egg-expressed genes. By contrast, we found no candidate sites under selection in a fourth gene ( ZP1 ) that encodes an egg coat structural protein not directly involved in sperm binding. Finally, we found that two of the candidate sites (in C4BPA and ZP2 ) were correlated with variation in family size and birth rate among Hutterite couples, and those two candidate sites were also in linkage disequilibrium in the same Hutterite study population. All of these lines of evidence are consistent with predictions from a previously proposed hypothesis of balancing selection on epistatic interactions between C4BPA and ZP3 at fertilization that lead to the evolution of co-adapted allele pairs. Such patterns also suggest specific molecular traits that may be associated with both natural reproductive variation and clinical infertility.

Dates and versions

hal-04256661 , version 1 (24-10-2023)



Michael Hart, Daryn Stover, Vanessa Guerra, Sahar Mozaffari, Carole Ober, et al.. Positive selection on human gamete-recognition genes. PeerJ, 2018, 6, pp.e4259. ⟨10.7717/peerj.4259⟩. ⟨hal-04256661⟩
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