Rates of protein evolution are positively correlated with developmental timing of expression during mouse spermatogenesis

Jeffrey M. Good, Michael W. Nachman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

82 Scopus citations


Male reproductive genes often evolve very rapidly, and sexual selection is thought to be a primary force driving this divergence. We investigated the molecular evolution of 987 genes expressed at different times during mouse spermatogenesis to determine if the rate of evolution and the intensity of positive selection vary across stages of male gamete development. Using mouse-rat orthologs, we found that rates of protein evolution were positively correlated with the developmental timing of expression. Genes expressed early in spermatogenesis had rates of divergence similar to the genome median, while genes expressed after the onset of meiosis were found to evolve much more quickly. Rates of protein evolution were fastest for genes expressed during the dramatic morphogenesis of round spermatids into spermatozoa. Late-expressed genes were also more likely to be specific to the male germline. To test for evidence of positive selection, we analyzed the ratio of nonsynonymous to synonymous changes using a maximum likelihood framework in comparisons among mouse, rat, and human. Many genes showed evidence of positive selection, and most of these genes were expressed late in spermatogenesis and were testis specific. Overall, these data suggest that the intensity of positive selection associated with the evolution of male gametes varies considerably across development and acts primarily on phenotypes that develop late in spermatogenesis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1044-1052
Number of pages9
JournalMolecular Biology and Evolution
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2005


  • Mus musculus
  • Pleiotropy
  • Sexual selection
  • Sperm development
  • X chromosome


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