Julien Y Dutheil, Kasper Munch, Thomas Mailund, Kiwoong Nam, Mikkel Schierup
The human and chimpanzee X chromosomes are less divergent than expected based on autosomal divergence. This has led to a controversial hypothesis proposing a unique role of the X chromosome in complex human-chimpanzee speciation. Here, we study incomplete lineage sorting patterns between humans, chimpanzees and gorillas to show that this low divergence is entirely due to megabase-sized regions comprising one-third of the X chromosome, where polymorphism in the human-chimpanzee ancestral species was severely reduced. Background selection can explain 10% of this reduction at most. Instead, we show that several strong selective sweeps in the ancestral species can explain these patterns. We also report evidence of population specific sweeps of a similar magnitude in extant humans that overlap the regions of low diversity in the ancestral species. These regions further correspond to chromosomal sections shown to be devoid of Neanderthal introgression into modern humans. This suggests that these X-linked regions are directly involved in forming reproductive barriers.