Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

About the PNAS Member Editor
Name Nei, Masatoshi
Location Temple University
Primary Field Evolutionary Biology
Secondary Field Genetics
 Election Citation
Nei has developed widely adopted mathematical techniques for studying variability and relationship in populations based on molecular genetic data. Using these techniques, he made important predictions about the origins of the major human races, duplicate genes, and DNA level selection. His books have defined the field of molecular evolutionary genetics.
 Research Interests
My research has been primarily concerned with the development of statistical methods that are required for analyzing and interpreting molecular data for the study of evolution and population genetics. I have developed various statistical methods for estimating evolutionary distance between two DNA or protein sequences and genetic distance between two populations. In collaboration with my students, I have also developed efficient statistical methods for constructing phylogenetic trees from sequence data as well as from allele frequency data. Currently, I am working on methods for inferring the amino acid sequences of protein in extinct ancestral organisms from present-day data to study the evolutionary change of protein function. I have also analyzed various molecular data using the statistical methods developed to understand the mechanism of evolution. This study has indicated that the evolutionary change of DNA is largely neutral but there are exceptional genes such as MHC genes where positive Darwinian selection enhances genetic polymorphism. Another area of my interest is the study of human evolution at the molecular level and I have shown that Africans are the first group of people who split from the rest of the human populations and Europeans are the next to diverge from the remaining populations.

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