Molecular evolution of FOXP2, a gene involved in speech and language.

Bibliographic Collection: 
MOCA Reference, APE
Publication Type: Journal Article
Authors: Enard, Wolfgang; Przeworski, Molly; Fisher, Simon E; Lai, Cecilia S L; Wiebe, Victor; Kitano, Takashi; Monaco, Anthony P; Pääbo, Svante
Year of Publication: 2002
Journal: Nature
Volume: 418
Issue: 6900
Pagination: 869-72
Date Published: 2002 Aug 22
Publication Language: eng
ISSN: 0028-0836
Keywords: Alleles, Amino Acid Sequence, Amino Acid Substitution, Animals, Cloning, Molecular, Conserved Sequence, Evolution, Molecular, Forkhead Transcription Factors, Genetic Variation, Humans, Language, Mice, Molecular Sequence Data, Mutation, Phylogeny, Primates, Selection, Genetic, Speech, Speech Disorders, Transcription Factors

Language is a uniquely human trait likely to have been a prerequisite for the development of human culture. The ability to develop articulate speech relies on capabilities, such as fine control of the larynx and mouth, that are absent in chimpanzees and other great apes. FOXP2 is the first gene relevant to the human ability to develop language. A point mutation in FOXP2 co-segregates with a disorder in a family in which half of the members have severe articulation difficulties accompanied by linguistic and grammatical impairment. This gene is disrupted by translocation in an unrelated individual who has a similar disorder. Thus, two functional copies of FOXP2 seem to be required for acquisition of normal spoken language. We sequenced the complementary DNAs that encode the FOXP2 protein in the chimpanzee, gorilla, orang-utan, rhesus macaque and mouse, and compared them with the human cDNA. We also investigated intraspecific variation of the human FOXP2 gene. Here we show that human FOXP2 contains changes in amino-acid coding and a pattern of nucleotide polymorphism, which strongly suggest that this gene has been the target of selection during recent human evolution.

DOI: 10.1038/nature01025
Alternate Journal: Nature
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