Munch Lab


Our goal is to understand how mutation, selection, and recombination together shape genetic variation, the evolution of genomes and the formation of new species. We develop and apply population genetic method to address these questions in both living and ancestral species.

Evolution of recombination landscapes

We work on methods for inference of recombination patterns in ancestral populations. A recombination map for the ancestor of two closely related species can be derived using coalescent hidden Markov models. This type of analysis helps us understand how recombination patterns evolve and how recombination drives non-adaptive evolution of genomes. We are currently extending this work to ancestral species across the primate species tree.

Interaction between selection and recombination

We analyze large primate data sets to understand how recombination effects selection (Hill-Robertson interference) in closely related species with different demographic histories. We also work on how recombination rate evolves in response to positive selection across the primate species tree.

Impact of selective sweeps across evolutionary time scales

We develop methods to identify selective sweeps from large sets of full genomes. We also develop methods for inference of selection ancestral species. These methods use incomplete lineage sorting to identify selective sweeps across evolutionary timescales. We currently employ these methods to quantify the dramatically varying intensity of positive selection across the species ancestral to humans.

The X chromosome and speciation

I am involved in several projects that address the unique forces acting on X chromosomes. We recently identified very megabase-wide depletions in diversity of great apes. We pursue the hypothesis that this selection is due to meiotic drive on ampliconic genes in these regions and that their rapid evolution of these genes contributes to hybrid incompatibility between emerging species.

Selected publications

Selective Sweeps across Twenty Million Years of Primate Evolution
Munch K, Nam K, Schierup MH, Mailund M
Molecular Biology and Evolution (2016)

Strong selective sweeps on the X chromosome in the human-chimpanzee ancestor explain its low divergence
Dutheil JY, Munch K, Nam K, Mailund T, Schierup MH
PLoS Genetics (2015)

Extreme selective sweeps independently targeted the X chromosomes of the great apes
Nam K, Munch, K, Hobolth, A, Dutheil JY, Veeramah K, Woerner A, Hammer MH, Great Ape Diversity Project, Mailund T, Schierup MH.
PNAS (2015) 112:20

A fine-scale recombination map of the human–chimpanzee ancestor reveals faster change in humans than in chimpanzees and a strong impact of GC-biased gene conversion
Munch K, Mailund T, Dutheil JY, Schierup MH
Genome Research (2014) 24: 467-47

Unraveling recombination rate evolution using ancestral recombination maps (Commissioned review)
Munch K, Schierup MH, Mailund T
BioEssays (2014) 36:9 892–900



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