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The extensive similarities between the genomes of human and model organisms are the foundation of much of modern biology, with model organism experimentation permitting valuable insights into biological function and the aetiology of human disease. In contrast, differences among genomes have received less attention. Yet these can be expected to govern the physiological and morphological distinctions apparent among species, especially if such differences are the result of evolutionary adaptation. A recent comparison of the draft sequences of mouse and human genomes has shed light on the selective forces that have predominated in their recent evolutionary histories. In particular, mouse-specific clusters of homologues associated with roles in reproduction, immunity and host defence appear to be under diversifying positive selective pressure, as indicated by high ratios of non-synonymous to synonymous substitution rates. These clusters are also frequently punctuated by homologous pseudogenes. They thus have experienced numerous gene death, as well as gene birth, events. These regions appear, therefore, to have borne the brunt of adaptive evolution that underlies physiological and behavioural innovation in mice. We predict that the availability of numerous animal genomes will give rise to a new field of genome zoology in which differences in animal physiology and ethology are illuminated by the study of genomic sequence variations.


Journal article


Hum Mol Genet

Publication Date





701 - 709


Animals, Evolution, Molecular, Gene Duplication, Genetics, Genome, Genome, Human, Humans, Mice, Models, Genetic, Multigene Family, Species Specificity