Mutations create variation in the population, fuel evolution and cause genetic diseases. Current knowledge about de novo mutations is incomplete and mostly indirect1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10. Here we analyze 11,020 de novo mutations from the whole genomes of 250 families. We show that de novo mutations in the offspring of older fathers are not only more numerous11,12,13 but also occur more frequently in early-replicating, genic regions. Functional regions exhibit higher mutation rates due to CpG dinucleotides and show signatures of transcription-coupled repair, whereas mutation clusters with a unique signature point to a new mutational mechanism. Mutation and recombination rates independently associate with nucleotide diversity, and regional variation in human-chimpanzee divergence is only partly explained by heterogeneity in mutation rate. Finally, we provide a genome-wide mutation rate map for medical and population genetics applications. Our results provide new insights and refine long-standing hypotheses about human mutagenesis.

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We thank D. Gordenin for very helpful comments. The Genome of the Netherlands (GoNL) Project is funded by the Biobanking and Biomolecular Research Infrastructure (BBMRI-NL), which is financed by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO project 184.021.007). S.R.S., P.P.P. and S.C. are funded by US National Institutes of Health grants 1 R01 MH101244 and 1 R01 GM078598.

Author information

Author notes

    • Laurent C Francioli
    • , Paz P Polak
    •  & Amnon Koren

    These authors contributed equally to this work.

    • Paul I W de Bakker
    •  & Shamil R Sunyaev

    These authors jointly supervised this work.


  1. Department of Medical Genetics, Center for Molecular Medicine, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, the Netherlands.

    • Laurent C Francioli
    • , Androniki Menelaou
    • , Ivo Renkens
    • , Wigard P Kloosterman
    •  & Paul I W de Bakker
  2. Division of Genetics, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

    • Paz P Polak
    • , Sung Chun
    •  & Shamil R Sunyaev
  3. Department of Genetics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

    • Amnon Koren
  4. Department of Epidemiology, Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

    • Cornelia M van Duijn
  5. Department of Genetics, University of Groningen, University Medical Center Groningen, Groningen, the Netherlands.

    • Morris Swertz
    •  & Cisca Wijmenga
  6. Genomics Coordination Center, University of Groningen, University Medical Center Groningen, Groningen, the Netherlands.

    • Morris Swertz
    •  & Cisca Wijmenga
  7. Department of Human Genetics, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, the Netherlands.

    • Gertjan van Ommen
  8. Section of Molecular Epidemiology, Department of Medical Statistics and Bioinformatics, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, the Netherlands.

    • P Eline Slagboom
    •  & Kai Ye
  9. Department of Biological Psychology, VU University Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

    • Dorret I Boomsma
  10. Genome Institute, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri, USA.

    • Kai Ye
  11. European Research Institute for the Biology of Ageing, University of Groningen, University Medical Center Groningen, Groningen, the Netherlands.

    • Victor Guryev
  12. Department of Computational Molecular Biology, Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics, Berlin, Germany.

    • Peter F Arndt
  13. Department of Epidemiology, Julius Center for Health Sciences and Primary Care, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, the Netherlands.

    • Paul I W de Bakker


  1. Genome of the Netherlands Consortium

    A full list of members and affiliations appears in the Supplementary Note.


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S.R.S. and P.I.W.d.B. planned and directed the research. L.C.F. called and filtered the mutations. W.P.K. and I.R. validated candidate mutations. L.C.F. designed and executed the simulations. A.K., L.C.F. and A.M. performed replication timing analyses. P.P.P., L.C.F. and A.M. analyzed factors influencing regional mutation rates and spectra. L.C.F. and P.P.P. analyzed mutation clusters. P.P.P. and P.F.A. computed the comparative genomics model and compared it against observed mutation rates. S.C. and P.P.P. created the mutation rate map. L.C.F., P.P.P., A.K., P.I.W.d.B. and S.R.S. wrote the manuscript. A.M., S.C., C.M.v.D., M.S., C.W., G.v.O., P.E.S., D.I.B., K.Y., V.G., P.F.A. and W.P.K. provided critical feedback on the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Paul I W de Bakker or Shamil R Sunyaev.

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