Non-random mate choice in humans: insights from a genome scan


Raphaëlle Chaix, Fax: +33 1 40 79 32 31; E-mail:


Little is known about the genetic factors influencing mate choice in humans. Still, there is evidence for non-random mate choice with respect to physical traits. In addition, some studies suggest that the Major Histocompatibility Complex may affect pair formation. Nowadays, the availability of high density genomic data sets gives the opportunity to scan the genome for signatures of non-random mate choice without prior assumptions on which genes may be involved, while taking into account socio-demographic factors. Here, we performed a genome scan to detect extreme patterns of similarity or dissimilarity among spouses throughout the genome in three populations of African, European American, and Mexican origins from the HapMap 3 database. Our analyses identified genes and biological functions that may affect pair formation in humans, including genes involved in skin appearance, morphogenesis, immunity and behaviour. We found little overlap between the three populations, suggesting that the biological functions potentially influencing mate choice are population specific, in other words are culturally driven. Moreover, whenever the same functional category of genes showed a significant signal in two populations, different genes were actually involved, which suggests the possibility of evolutionary convergences.