Selection and adaptation in the human genome

Wenqing Fu, Joshua M. Akey

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

96 Scopus citations


An enduring goal of evolutionary biology is to understand how natural selection has shaped patterns of polymorphism and divergence within and between species and to map the genetic basis of adaptations. The rapid maturation of next-generation sequencing technology has generated a deluge of genomics data from nonhuman primates, extinct hominins, and diverse human populations. These emerging genome data sets have simultaneously broadened our understanding of human evolution and sharply defined existing gaps in knowledge about the mechanistic basis of evolutionary change. In this review, we summarize recent insights into how natural selection has influenced the human genome across different timescales. Although the path to a more comprehensive understanding of selection and adaptation in humans remains arduous, some general insights are beginning to emerge, such as the importance of adaptive regulatory evolution, the absence of pervasive classic selective sweeps, and the potential roles that selection from standing variation and polygenic adaptation have likely played in recent human evolutionary history.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)467-489
Number of pages23
JournalAnnual Review of Genomics and Human Genetics
StatePublished - Aug 2013
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Genetics(clinical)
  • Genetics
  • Molecular Biology


  • Adaptive evolution
  • Hard sweep
  • Mutation load
  • Polygenic selection
  • Purifying selection
  • Soft sweep


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