The male-specific region of the human Y chromosome (MSY) includes eight large inverted repeats (palindromes) in which arm-to-arm similarity exceeds 99.9%, due to gene conversion activity. Here, we studied one of these palindromes, P6, in order to illuminate the dynamics of the gene conversion process. We genotyped ten paralogous sequence variants (PSVs) within the arms of P6 in 378 Y chromosomes whose evolutionary relationships within the SNP-defined Y phylogeny are known. This allowed the identification of 146 historical gene conversion events involving individual PSVs, occurring at a rate of 2.9–8.4×10−4 events per generation. A consideration of the nature of nucleotide change and the ancestral state of each PSV showed that the conversion process was significantly biased towards the fixation of G or C nucleotides (GC-biased), and also towards the ancestral state. Determination of haplotypes by long-PCR allowed likely co-conversion of PSVs to be identified, and suggested that conversion tract lengths are large, with a mean of 2068 bp, and a maximum in excess of 9 kb. Despite the frequent formation of recombination intermediates implied by the rapid observed gene conversion activity, resolution via crossover is rare: only three inversions within P6 were detected in the sample. An analysis of chimpanzee and gorilla P6 orthologs showed that the ancestral state bias has existed in all three species, and comparison of human and chimpanzee sequences with the gorilla outgroup confirmed that GC bias of the conversion process has apparently been active in both the human and chimpanzee lineages.
The sex-determining role of the human Y chromosome makes it male-specific, and always present in only a single copy. This solo lifestyle has endowed it with some bizarre features, among which are eight large DNA units constituting about a quarter of the chromosome's length, and containing many genes important for sperm production. These units are called palindromes, since, taking into account the polarity of the DNA strands, the sequence is the same read from either end of the unit. We investigated the details of a process (gene conversion) that transfers sequence variants in one half of a palindrome into the other, thereby maintaining >99.9% similarity between the halves. We analysed patterns of sequence variants within one palindrome in a set of Y chromosomes whose evolutionary relationships are known. This allowed us to identify past gene conversion events, and to demonstrate a bias towards events that eliminate new variants, and retain old ones. Gene conversion has therefore acted during human evolution to retard sequence change in these regions. Analysis of the chimpanzee and gorilla versions of the palindrome shows that the dynamic processes we see in human Y chromosomes have a deep evolutionary history.
The historical record tells us stories of migrations, population expansions and colonization events in the last few thousand years, but what was their demographic impact? Genetics can throw light on this issue, and has mostly done so through the maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and the male-specific Y chromosome. However, there are a number of problems, including marker ascertainment bias, possible influences of natural selection, and the obscuring layers of the palimpsest of historical and prehistorical events. Y-chromosomal lineages are particularly affected by genetic drift, which can be accentuated by recent social selection. A diversity of approaches to expansions in Europe is yielding insights into the histories of Phoenicians, Roma, Anglo-Saxons and Vikings, and new methods for producing and analysing genome-wide data hold much promise. The field would benefit from more consensus on appropriate methods, and better communication between geneticists and experts in other disciplines, such as history, archaeology and linguistics.
human; population history; genetic drift; natural selection; genetic diversity
A revised root for the Y chromosome phylogeny further fragments the picture of modern human origins that can be reconstructed from genetic, linguistic and archaeological data.
A sexual dimorphism exists in the incidence and prevalence of coronary artery disease—men are more commonly affected than are age-matched women. We explored the role of the Y chromosome in coronary artery disease in the context of this sexual inequity.
We genotyped 11 markers of the male-specific region of the Y chromosome in 3233 biologically unrelated British men from three cohorts: the British Heart Foundation Family Heart Study (BHF-FHS), West of Scotland Coronary Prevention Study (WOSCOPS), and Cardiogenics Study. On the basis of this information, each Y chromosome was tracked back into one of 13 ancient lineages defined as haplogroups. We then examined associations between common Y chromosome haplogroups and the risk of coronary artery disease in cross-sectional BHF-FHS and prospective WOSCOPS. Finally, we undertook functional analysis of Y chromosome effects on monocyte and macrophage transcriptome in British men from the Cardiogenics Study.
Of nine haplogroups identified, two (R1b1b2 and I) accounted for roughly 90% of the Y chromosome variants among British men. Carriers of haplogroup I had about a 50% higher age-adjusted risk of coronary artery disease than did men with other Y chromosome lineages in BHF-FHS (odds ratio 1·75, 95% CI 1·20–2·54, p=0·004), WOSCOPS (1·45, 1·08–1·95, p=0·012), and joint analysis of both populations (1·56, 1·24–1·97, p=0·0002). The association between haplogroup I and increased risk of coronary artery disease was independent of traditional cardiovascular and socioeconomic risk factors. Analysis of macrophage transcriptome in the Cardiogenics Study revealed that 19 molecular pathways showing strong differential expression between men with haplogroup I and other lineages of the Y chromosome were interconnected by common genes related to inflammation and immunity, and that some of them have a strong relevance to atherosclerosis.
The human Y chromosome is associated with risk of coronary artery disease in men of European ancestry, possibly through interactions of immunity and inflammation.
British Heart Foundation; UK National Institute for Health Research; LEW Carty Charitable Fund; National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia; European Union 6th Framework Programme; Wellcome Trust.
Most present-day European men inherited their Y chromosomes from the farmers who spread from the Near East 10,000 years ago, rather than from the hunter-gatherers of the Paleolithic.
The relative contributions to modern European populations of Paleolithic hunter-gatherers and Neolithic farmers from the Near East have been intensely debated. Haplogroup R1b1b2 (R-M269) is the commonest European Y-chromosomal lineage, increasing in frequency from east to west, and carried by 110 million European men. Previous studies suggested a Paleolithic origin, but here we show that the geographical distribution of its microsatellite diversity is best explained by spread from a single source in the Near East via Anatolia during the Neolithic. Taken with evidence on the origins of other haplogroups, this indicates that most European Y chromosomes originate in the Neolithic expansion. This reinterpretation makes Europe a prime example of how technological and cultural change is linked with the expansion of a Y-chromosomal lineage, and the contrast of this pattern with that shown by maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA suggests a unique role for males in the transition.
Arguably the most important cultural transition in the history of modern humans was the development of farming, since it heralded the population growth that culminated in our current massive population size. The genetic diversity of modern populations retains the traces of such past events, and can therefore be studied to illuminate the demographic processes involved in past events. Much debate has focused on the origins of agriculture in Europe some 10,000 years ago, and in particular whether its westerly spread from the Near East was driven by farmers themselves migrating, or by the transmission of ideas and technologies to indigenous hunter-gatherers. This study examines the diversity of the paternally inherited Y chromosome, focusing on the commonest lineage in Europe. The distribution of this lineage, the diversity within it, and estimates of its age all suggest that it spread with farming from the Near East. Taken with evidence on the origins of other lineages, this indicates that most European Y chromosomes descend from Near Eastern farmers. In contrast, most maternal lineages descend from hunter-gatherers, suggesting a reproductive advantage for farming males over indigenous hunter-gatherer males during the cultural transition from hunting-gathering to farming.
In this study, we used genetic data that we collected in Central Asia, in addition to data from the literature, to understand better the origins of Central Asian groups at a fine-grained scale, and to assess how ethnicity influences the shaping of genetic differences in the human species. We assess the levels of genetic differentiation between ethnic groups on one hand and between populations of the same ethnic group on the other hand with mitochondrial and Y-chromosomal data from several populations per ethnic group from the two major linguistic groups in Central Asia.
Our results show that there are more differences between populations of the same ethnic group than between ethnic groups for the Y chromosome, whereas the opposite is observed for mtDNA in the Turkic group. This is not the case for Tajik populations belonging to the Indo-Iranian group where the mtDNA like the Y-chomosomal differentiation is also significant between populations within this ethnic group. Further, the Y-chromosomal analysis of genetic differentiation between populations belonging to the same ethnic group gives some estimation of the minimal age of these ethnic groups. This value is significantly higher than what is known from historical records for two of the groups and lends support to Barth's hypothesis by indicating that ethnicity, at least for these two groups, should be seen as a constructed social system maintaining genetic boundaries with other ethnic groups, rather than the outcome of common genetic ancestry
Our analysis of uniparental markers highlights in Central Asia the differences between Turkic and Indo-Iranian populations in their sex-specific differentiation and shows good congruence with anthropological data.
The Y-STR DYS19 is firmly established in the repertoire of Y-chromosomal markers used in forensic analysis yet is poorly understood at the molecular level, lying in a complex genomic environment and exhibiting null alleles, as well as duplications and occasional triplications in population samples. Here, we analyse three null alleles and 51 duplications and show that DYS19 can also be involved in inversion events, so that even its location within the short arm of the Y chromosome is uncertain. Deletion mapping in the three chromosomes carrying null alleles shows that their deletions are less than ~300 kb in size. Haplotypic analysis with binary markers shows that they belong to three different haplogroups and so represent independent events. In contrast, a collection of 51 DYS19 duplication chromosomes belong to only four haplogroups: two are singletons and may represent somatic mutation in lymphoblastoid cell lines, but two, in haplogroups G and C3c, represent founder lineages that have spread widely in Central Europe/West Asia and East Asia, respectively. Consideration of candidate mechanisms underlying both deletions and duplications provides no evidence for the involvement of non-allelic homologous recombination, and they are likely to represent sporadic events with low mutation rates. Understanding the basis and population distribution of these DYS19 alleles will aid in the utilisation and interpretation of profiles that contain them.
Y chromosome; Y-STR; DYS19; Duplication; Deletion; Inversion
Most studies of European genetic diversity have focused on large-scale variation and interpretations based on events in prehistory, but migrations and invasions in historical times could also have had profound effects on the genetic landscape. The Iberian Peninsula provides a suitable region for examination of the demographic impact of such recent events, because its complex recent history has involved the long-term residence of two very different populations with distinct geographical origins and their own particular cultural and religious characteristics—North African Muslims and Sephardic Jews. To address this issue, we analyzed Y chromosome haplotypes, which provide the necessary phylogeographic resolution, in 1140 males from the Iberian Peninsula and Balearic Islands. Admixture analysis based on binary and Y-STR haplotypes indicates a high mean proportion of ancestry from North African (10.6%) and Sephardic Jewish (19.8%) sources. Despite alternative possible sources for lineages ascribed a Sephardic Jewish origin, these proportions attest to a high level of religious conversion (whether voluntary or enforced), driven by historical episodes of social and religious intolerance, that ultimately led to the integration of descendants. In agreement with the historical record, analysis of haplotype sharing and diversity within specific haplogroups suggests that the Sephardic Jewish component is the more ancient. The geographical distribution of North African ancestry in the peninsula does not reflect the initial colonization and subsequent withdrawal and is likely to result from later enforced population movement—more marked in some regions than in others—plus the effects of genetic drift.