Accelerated evolution of nervous system genes in the origin of Homo sapiens

Steve Dorus, Eric J. Vallender, Patrick D. Evans, Jeffrey R. Anderson, Sandra L. Gilbert, Michael Mahowald, Gerald J. Wyckoff, Christine M. Malcom, Bruce T. Lahn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

349 Scopus citations


Human evolution is characterized by a dramatic increase in brain size and complexity. To probe its genetic basis, we examined the evolution of genes involved in diverse aspects of nervous system biology. We found that these genes display significantly higher rates of protein evolution in primates than in rodents. Importantly, this trend is most pronounced for the subset of genes implicated in nervous system development. Moreover, within primates, the acceleration of protein evolution is most prominent in the lineage leading from ancestral primates to humans. Thus, the remarkable phenotypic evolution of the human nervous system has a salient molecular correlate, i.e., accelerated evolution of the underlying genes, particularly those linked to nervous system development. In addition to uncovering broad evolutionary trends, our study also identified many candidate genes - most of which are implicated in regulating brain size and behavior - that might have played important roles in the evolution of the human brain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1027-1040
Number of pages14
Issue number7
StatePublished - Dec 29 2004
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Accelerated evolution of nervous system genes in the origin of Homo sapiens'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this