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1.  The Light Skin Allele of SLC24A5 in South Asians and Europeans Shares Identity by Descent 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(11):e1003912.
Skin pigmentation is one of the most variable phenotypic traits in humans. A non-synonymous substitution (rs1426654) in the third exon of SLC24A5 accounts for lighter skin in Europeans but not in East Asians. A previous genome-wide association study carried out in a heterogeneous sample of UK immigrants of South Asian descent suggested that this gene also contributes significantly to skin pigmentation variation among South Asians. In the present study, we have quantitatively assessed skin pigmentation for a largely homogeneous cohort of 1228 individuals from the Southern region of the Indian subcontinent. Our data confirm significant association of rs1426654 SNP with skin pigmentation, explaining about 27% of total phenotypic variation in the cohort studied. Our extensive survey of the polymorphism in 1573 individuals from 54 ethnic populations across the Indian subcontinent reveals wide presence of the derived-A allele, although the frequencies vary substantially among populations. We also show that the geospatial pattern of this allele is complex, but most importantly, reflects strong influence of language, geography and demographic history of the populations. Sequencing 11.74 kb of SLC24A5 in 95 individuals worldwide reveals that the rs1426654-A alleles in South Asian and West Eurasian populations are monophyletic and occur on the background of a common haplotype that is characterized by low genetic diversity. We date the coalescence of the light skin associated allele at 22–28 KYA. Both our sequence and genome-wide genotype data confirm that this gene has been a target for positive selection among Europeans. However, the latter also shows additional evidence of selection in populations of the Middle East, Central Asia, Pakistan and North India but not in South India.
Author Summary
Human skin color is one of the most visible aspects of human diversity. The genetic basis of pigmentation in Europeans has been understood to some extent, but our knowledge about South Asians has been restricted to a handful of studies. It has been suggested that a single nucleotide difference in SLC24A5 accounts for 25–38% European-African pigmentation differences and correlates with lighter skin. This genetic variant has also been associated with skin color variation among South Asians living in the UK. Here, we report a study based on a homogenous cohort of South India. Our results confirm that SLC24A5 plays a key role in pigmentation diversity of South Asians. Country-wide screening of the variant reveals that the light skin associated allele is widespread in the Indian subcontinent and its complex patterning is shaped by a combination of processes involving selection and demographic history of the populations. By studying the variation of SLC24A5 sequences among a diverse set of individuals, we show that the light skin associated allele in South Asians is identical by descent to that found in Europeans. Our study also provides new insights into positive selection acting on the gene and the evolutionary history of light skin in humans.
PMCID: PMC3820762  PMID: 24244186
2.  Global Patterns of Diversity and Selection in Human Tyrosinase Gene 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e74307.
Global variation in skin pigmentation is one of the most striking examples of environmental adaptation in humans. More than two hundred loci have been identified as candidate genes in model organisms and a few tens of these have been found to be significantly associated with human skin pigmentation in genome-wide association studies. However, the evolutionary history of different pigmentation genes is rather complex: some loci have been subjected to strong positive selection, while others evolved under the relaxation of functional constraints in low UV environment. Here we report the results of a global study of the human tyrosinase gene, which is one of the key enzymes in melanin production, to assess the role of its variation in the evolution of skin pigmentation differences among human populations. We observe a higher rate of non-synonymous polymorphisms in the European sample consistent with the relaxation of selective constraints. A similar pattern was previously observed in the MC1R gene and concurs with UV radiation-driven model of skin color evolution by which mutations leading to lower melanin levels and decreased photoprotection are subject to purifying selection at low latitudes while being tolerated or even favored at higher latitudes because they facilitate UV-dependent vitamin D production. Our coalescent date estimates suggest that the non-synonymous variants, which are frequent in Europe and North Africa, are recent and have emerged after the separation of East and West Eurasian populations.
PMCID: PMC3770694  PMID: 24040225
3.  Population Genetic Structure in Indian Austroasiatic Speakers: The Role of Landscape Barriers and Sex-Specific Admixture 
Molecular biology and evolution  2010;28(2):1013-1024.
The geographic origin and time of dispersal of Austroasiatic (AA) speakers, presently settled in south and southeast Asia, remains disputed. Two rival hypotheses, both assuming a demic component to the language dispersal, have been proposed. The first of these places the origin of Austroasiatic speakers in southeast Asia with a later dispersal to south Asia during the Neolithic, whereas the second hypothesis advocates pre-Neolithic origins and dispersal of this language family from south Asia. To test the two alternative models, this study combines the analysis of uniparentally inherited markers with 610,000 common single nucleotide polymorphism loci from the nuclear genome. Indian AA speakers have high frequencies of Y chromosome haplogroup O2a; our results show that this haplogroup has significantly higher diversity and coalescent time (17–28 thousand years ago) in southeast Asia, strongly supporting the first of the two hypotheses. Nevertheless, the results of principal component and “structure-like” analyses on autosomal loci also show that the population history of AA speakers in India is more complex, being characterized by two ancestral components—one represented in the pattern of Y chromosomal and EDAR results and the other by mitochondrial DNA diversity and genomic structure. We propose that AA speakers in India today are derived from dispersal from southeast Asia, followed by extensive sex-specific admixture with local Indian populations.
PMCID: PMC3355372  PMID: 20978040
Austroasiatic; mtDNA; Y chromosome; autosomes; admixture
5.  Most of the extant mtDNA boundaries in South and Southwest Asia were likely shaped during the initial settlement of Eurasia by anatomically modern humans 
BMC Genetics  2004;5:26.
Recent advances in the understanding of the maternal and paternal heritage of south and southwest Asian populations have highlighted their role in the colonization of Eurasia by anatomically modern humans. Further understanding requires a deeper insight into the topology of the branches of the Indian mtDNA phylogenetic tree, which should be contextualized within the phylogeography of the neighboring regional mtDNA variation. Accordingly, we have analyzed mtDNA control and coding region variation in 796 Indian (including both tribal and caste populations from different parts of India) and 436 Iranian mtDNAs. The results were integrated and analyzed together with published data from South, Southeast Asia and West Eurasia.
Four new Indian-specific haplogroup M sub-clades were defined. These, in combination with two previously described haplogroups, encompass approximately one third of the haplogroup M mtDNAs in India. Their phylogeography and spread among different linguistic phyla and social strata was investigated in detail. Furthermore, the analysis of the Iranian mtDNA pool revealed patterns of limited reciprocal gene flow between Iran and the Indian sub-continent and allowed the identification of different assemblies of shared mtDNA sub-clades.
Since the initial peopling of South and West Asia by anatomically modern humans, when this region may well have provided the initial settlers who colonized much of the rest of Eurasia, the gene flow in and out of India of the maternally transmitted mtDNA has been surprisingly limited. Specifically, our analysis of the mtDNA haplogroups, which are shared between Indian and Iranian populations and exhibit coalescence ages corresponding to around the early Upper Paleolithic, indicates that they are present in India largely as Indian-specific sub-lineages. In contrast, other ancient Indian-specific variants of M and R are very rare outside the sub-continent.
PMCID: PMC516768  PMID: 15339343

Results 1-5 (5)