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1.  Global diversity, population stratification, and selection of human copy number variation 
Science (New York, N.Y.)  2015;349(6253):aab3761.
In order to explore the diversity and selective signatures of duplication and deletion human copy number variants (CNVs), we sequenced 236 individuals from 125 distinct human populations. We observed that duplications exhibit fundamentally different population genetic and selective signatures than deletions and are more likely to be stratified between human populations. Through reconstruction of the ancestral human genome, we identify megabases of DNA lost in different human lineages and pinpoint large duplications that introgressed from the extinct Denisova lineage now found at high frequency exclusively in Oceanic populations. We find that the proportion of CNV base pairs to single nucleotide variant base pairs is greater among non-Africans than it is among African populations, but we conclude that this difference is likely due to unique aspects of non-African population history as opposed to differences in CNV load.
PMCID: PMC4568308  PMID: 26249230
2.  Genetic and phenotypic differentiation of an Andean intermediate altitude population 
Physiological Reports  2015;3(5):e12376.
Highland populations living permanently under hypobaric hypoxia have been subject of extensive research because of the relevance of their physiological adaptations for the understanding of human health and disease. In this context, what is considered high altitude is a matter of interpretation and while the adaptive processes at high altitude (above 3000 m) are well documented, the effects of moderate altitude (below 3000 m) on the phenotype are less well established. In this study, we compare physiological and anthropometric characteristics as well as genetic variations in two Andean populations: the Calchaquíes (2300 m) and neighboring Collas (3500 m). We compare their phenotype and genotype to the sea-level Wichí population. We measured physiological (heart rate, oxygen saturation, respiration rate, and lung function) as well as anthropometric traits (height, sitting height, weight, forearm, and tibia length). We conducted genome-wide genotyping on a subset of the sample (n = 74) and performed various scans for positive selection. At the phenotypic level (n = 179), increased lung capacity stood out in both Andean groups, whereas a growth reduction in distal limbs was only observed at high altitude. At the genome level, Calchaquíes revealed strong signals around PRKG1, suggesting that the nitric oxide pathway may be a target of selection. PRKG1 was highlighted by one of four selection tests among the top five genes using the population branch statistic. Selection tests results of Collas were reported previously. Overall, our study shows that some phenotypic and genetic differentiation occurs at intermediate altitude in response to moderate lifelong selection pressures.
PMCID: PMC4463816  PMID: 25948820
Calchaquíes; Diaguita; lung capacity; moderate hypoxia
3.  The Genetic Legacy of the Expansion of Turkic-Speaking Nomads across Eurasia 
PLoS Genetics  2015;11(4):e1005068.
The Turkic peoples represent a diverse collection of ethnic groups defined by the Turkic languages. These groups have dispersed across a vast area, including Siberia, Northwest China, Central Asia, East Europe, the Caucasus, Anatolia, the Middle East, and Afghanistan. The origin and early dispersal history of the Turkic peoples is disputed, with candidates for their ancient homeland ranging from the Transcaspian steppe to Manchuria in Northeast Asia. Previous genetic studies have not identified a clear-cut unifying genetic signal for the Turkic peoples, which lends support for language replacement rather than demic diffusion as the model for the Turkic language’s expansion. We addressed the genetic origin of 373 individuals from 22 Turkic-speaking populations, representing their current geographic range, by analyzing genome-wide high-density genotype data. In agreement with the elite dominance model of language expansion most of the Turkic peoples studied genetically resemble their geographic neighbors. However, western Turkic peoples sampled across West Eurasia shared an excess of long chromosomal tracts that are identical by descent (IBD) with populations from present-day South Siberia and Mongolia (SSM), an area where historians center a series of early Turkic and non-Turkic steppe polities. While SSM matching IBD tracts (> 1cM) are also observed in non-Turkic populations, Turkic peoples demonstrate a higher percentage of such tracts (p-values ≤ 0.01) compared to their non-Turkic neighbors. Finally, we used the ALDER method and inferred admixture dates (~9th–17th centuries) that overlap with the Turkic migrations of the 5th–16th centuries. Thus, our results indicate historical admixture among Turkic peoples, and the recent shared ancestry with modern populations in SSM supports one of the hypothesized homelands for their nomadic Turkic and related Mongolic ancestors.
Author Summary
Centuries of nomadic migrations have ultimately resulted in the distribution of Turkic languages over a large area ranging from Siberia, across Central Asia to Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Despite the profound cultural impact left by these nomadic peoples, little is known about their prehistoric origins. Moreover, because contemporary Turkic speakers tend to genetically resemble their geographic neighbors, it is not clear whether their nomadic ancestors left an identifiable genetic trace. In this study, we show that Turkic-speaking peoples sampled across the Middle East, Caucasus, East Europe, and Central Asia share varying proportions of Asian ancestry that originate in a single area, southern Siberia and Mongolia. Mongolic- and Turkic-speaking populations from this area bear an unusually high number of long chromosomal tracts that are identical by descent with Turkic peoples from across west Eurasia. Admixture induced linkage disequilibrium decay across chromosomes in these populations indicates that admixture occurred during the 9th–17th centuries, in agreement with the historically recorded Turkic nomadic migrations and later Mongol expansion. Thus, our findings reveal genetic traces of recent large-scale nomadic migrations and map their source to a previously hypothesized area of Mongolia and southern Siberia.
PMCID: PMC4405460  PMID: 25898006
4.  Ancient human genomes suggest three ancestral populations for present-day Europeans 
Lazaridis, Iosif | Patterson, Nick | Mittnik, Alissa | Renaud, Gabriel | Mallick, Swapan | Kirsanow, Karola | Sudmant, Peter H. | Schraiber, Joshua G. | Castellano, Sergi | Lipson, Mark | Berger, Bonnie | Economou, Christos | Bollongino, Ruth | Fu, Qiaomei | Bos, Kirsten I. | Nordenfelt, Susanne | Li, Heng | de Filippo, Cesare | Prüfer, Kay | Sawyer, Susanna | Posth, Cosimo | Haak, Wolfgang | Hallgren, Fredrik | Fornander, Elin | Rohland, Nadin | Delsate, Dominique | Francken, Michael | Guinet, Jean-Michel | Wahl, Joachim | Ayodo, George | Babiker, Hamza A. | Bailliet, Graciela | Balanovska, Elena | Balanovsky, Oleg | Barrantes, Ramiro | Bedoya, Gabriel | Ben-Ami, Haim | Bene, Judit | Berrada, Fouad | Bravi, Claudio M. | Brisighelli, Francesca | Busby, George B. J. | Cali, Francesco | Churnosov, Mikhail | Cole, David E. C. | Corach, Daniel | Damba, Larissa | van Driem, George | Dryomov, Stanislav | Dugoujon, Jean-Michel | Fedorova, Sardana A. | Romero, Irene Gallego | Gubina, Marina | Hammer, Michael | Henn, Brenna M. | Hervig, Tor | Hodoglugil, Ugur | Jha, Aashish R. | Karachanak-Yankova, Sena | Khusainova, Rita | Khusnutdinova, Elza | Kittles, Rick | Kivisild, Toomas | Klitz, William | Kučinskas, Vaidutis | Kushniarevich, Alena | Laredj, Leila | Litvinov, Sergey | Loukidis, Theologos | Mahley, Robert W. | Melegh, Béla | Metspalu, Ene | Molina, Julio | Mountain, Joanna | Näkkäläjärvi, Klemetti | Nesheva, Desislava | Nyambo, Thomas | Osipova, Ludmila | Parik, Jüri | Platonov, Fedor | Posukh, Olga | Romano, Valentino | Rothhammer, Francisco | Rudan, Igor | Ruizbakiev, Ruslan | Sahakyan, Hovhannes | Sajantila, Antti | Salas, Antonio | Starikovskaya, Elena B. | Tarekegn, Ayele | Toncheva, Draga | Turdikulova, Shahlo | Uktveryte, Ingrida | Utevska, Olga | Vasquez, René | Villena, Mercedes | Voevoda, Mikhail | Winkler, Cheryl | Yepiskoposyan, Levon | Zalloua, Pierre | Zemunik, Tatijana | Cooper, Alan | Capelli, Cristian | Thomas, Mark G. | Ruiz-Linares, Andres | Tishkoff, Sarah A. | Singh, Lalji | Thangaraj, Kumarasamy | Villems, Richard | Comas, David | Sukernik, Rem | Metspalu, Mait | Meyer, Matthias | Eichler, Evan E. | Burger, Joachim | Slatkin, Montgomery | Pääbo, Svante | Kelso, Janet | Reich, David | Krause, Johannes
Nature  2014;513(7518):409-413.
We sequenced the genomes of a ~7,000 year old farmer from Germany and eight ~8,000 year old hunter-gatherers from Luxembourg and Sweden. We analyzed these and other ancient genomes1–4 with 2,345 contemporary humans to show that most present Europeans derive from at least three highly differentiated populations: West European Hunter-Gatherers (WHG), who contributed ancestry to all Europeans but not to Near Easterners; Ancient North Eurasians (ANE) related to Upper Paleolithic Siberians3, who contributed to both Europeans and Near Easterners; and Early European Farmers (EEF), who were mainly of Near Eastern origin but also harbored WHG-related ancestry. We model these populations’ deep relationships and show that EEF had ~44% ancestry from a “Basal Eurasian” population that split prior to the diversification of other non-African lineages.
PMCID: PMC4170574  PMID: 25230663
5.  Maternal ancestry and population history from whole mitochondrial genomes 
MtDNA has been a widely used tool in human evolutionary and population genetic studies over the past three decades. Its maternal inheritance and lack of recombination have offered the opportunity to explore genealogical relationships among individuals and to study the frequency differences of matrilineal clades among human populations at continental and regional scales. The whole mtDNA genome sequencing delivers molecular resolution that is sufficient to distinguish patterns that have arisen over thousands of years. However, mutation rate is highly variable among the functional and non-coding domains of mtDNA which makes it challenging to obtain accurate split dates of the mitochondrial clades. Due to the shallow coalescent time of mitochondrial TMRCA at approximately 100 to 200 thousand years (ky), mtDNA data have only limited power to inform us about the more distant past and the early stages of human evolutionary history. The variation shared by mitochondrial genomes of individuals drawn from different continents outside Africa has been used to illuminate the details of the colonization process of the Old World, whereas regional patterns of variation have been at the focus of studies addressing questions of a more recent time scale. In the era of whole nuclear genome sequencing, mitochondrial genomes are continuing to be informative as a unique tool for the assessment of female-specific aspects of the demographic history of human populations.
PMCID: PMC4367903  PMID: 25798216
Maternal ancestry; MtDNA; Population history
6.  Upper Palaeolithic Siberian genome reveals dual ancestry of Native Americans 
Nature  2013;505(7481):87-91.
The origins of the First Americans remain contentious. Although Native Americans seem to be genetically most closely related to east Asians1–3, there is no consensus with regard to which specific Old World populations they are closest to4–8. Here we sequence the draft genome of an approximately 24,000-year-old individual (MA-1), from Mal’ta in south-central Siberia9, to an average depth of 13. To our knowledge this is the oldest anatomically modern human genome reported to date. The MA-1 mitochondrial genome belongs to haplogroup U, which has also been found at high frequency among Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic European hunter-gatherers10–12, and the Y chromosome of MA-1 is basal to modern-day western Eurasians and near the root of most Native American lineages5. Similarly, we find autosomal evidence that MA-1 is basal to modern-day western Eurasians and genetically closely related to modern-day Native Americans, with no close affinity to east Asians. This suggests that populations related to contemporary western Eurasians had a more north-easterly distribution 24,000 years ago than commonly thought. Furthermore, we estimate that 14 to 38% of Native American ancestry may originate through gene flow from this ancient population. This is likely to have occurred after the divergence of Native American ancestors from east Asian ancestors, but before the diversification of Native American populations in the New World. Gene flow from the MA-1 lineage into Native American ancestors could explain why several crania from the First Americans have been reported as bearing morphological characteristics that do not resemble those of east Asians2,13. Sequencing of another south-central Siberian, Afontova Gora-2 dating to approximately 17,000 years ago14, revealed similar autosomal genetic signatures as MA-1, suggesting that the region was continuously occupied by humans throughout the Last Glacial Maximum. Our findings reveal that western Eurasian genetic signatures in modern-day Native Americans derive not only from post-Columbian admixture, as commonly thought, but also from a mixed ancestry of the First Americans.
PMCID: PMC4105016  PMID: 24256729
7.  Genome-Wide Analysis of Cold Adaptation in Indigenous Siberian Populations 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(5):e98076.
Following the dispersal out of Africa, where hominins evolved in warm environments for millions of years, our species has colonised different climate zones of the world, including high latitudes and cold environments. The extent to which human habitation in (sub-)Arctic regions has been enabled by cultural buffering, short-term acclimatization and genetic adaptations is not clearly understood. Present day indigenous populations of Siberia show a number of phenotypic features, such as increased basal metabolic rate, low serum lipid levels and increased blood pressure that have been attributed to adaptation to the extreme cold climate. In this study we introduce a dataset of 200 individuals from ten indigenous Siberian populations that were genotyped for 730,525 SNPs across the genome to identify genes and non-coding regions that have undergone unusually rapid allele frequency and long-range haplotype homozygosity change in the recent past. At least three distinct population clusters could be identified among the Siberians, each of which showed a number of unique signals of selection. A region on chromosome 11 (chr11:66–69 Mb) contained the largest amount of clustering of significant signals and also the strongest signals in all the different selection tests performed. We present a list of candidate cold adaption genes that showed significant signals of positive selection with our strongest signals associated with genes involved in energy regulation and metabolism (CPT1A, LRP5, THADA) and vascular smooth muscle contraction (PRKG1). By employing a new method that paints phased chromosome chunks by their ancestry we distinguish local Siberian-specific long-range haplotype signals from those introduced by admixture.
PMCID: PMC4029955  PMID: 24847810
8.  An Aboriginal Australian Genome Reveals Separate Human Dispersals into Asia 
Science (New York, N.Y.)  2011;334(6052):94-98.
We present an Aboriginal Australian genomic sequence obtained from a 100-year-old lock of hair donated by an Aboriginal man from southern Western Australia in the early 20th century. We detect no evidence of European admixture and estimate contamination levels to be below 0.5%. We show that Aboriginal Australians are descendants of an early human dispersal into eastern Asia, possibly 62,000 to 75,000 years ago. This dispersal is separate from the one that gave rise to modern Asians 25,000 to 38,000 years ago. We also find evidence of gene flow between populations of the two dispersal waves prior to the divergence of Native Americans from modern Asian ancestors. Our findings support the hypothesis that present-day Aboriginal Australians descend from the earliest humans to occupy Australia, likely representing one of the oldest continuous populations outside Africa.
PMCID: PMC3991479  PMID: 21940856
9.  The Andean Adaptive Toolkit to Counteract High Altitude Maladaptation: Genome-Wide and Phenotypic Analysis of the Collas 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e93314.
During their migrations out of Africa, humans successfully colonised and adapted to a wide range of habitats, including extreme high altitude environments, where reduced atmospheric oxygen (hypoxia) imposes a number of physiological challenges. This study evaluates genetic and phenotypic variation in the Colla population living in the Argentinean Andes above 3500 m and compares it to the nearby lowland Wichí group in an attempt to pinpoint evolutionary mechanisms underlying adaptation to high altitude hypoxia. We genotyped 730,525 SNPs in 25 individuals from each population. In genome-wide scans of extended haplotype homozygosity Collas showed the strongest signal around VEGFB, which plays an essential role in the ischemic heart, and ELTD1, another gene crucial for heart development and prevention of cardiac hypertrophy. Moreover, pathway enrichment analysis showed an overrepresentation of pathways associated with cardiac morphology. Taken together, these findings suggest that Colla highlanders may have evolved a toolkit of adaptative mechanisms resulting in cardiac reinforcement, most likely to counteract the adverse effects of the permanently increased haematocrit and associated shear forces that characterise the Andean response to hypoxia. Regulation of cerebral vascular flow also appears to be part of the adaptive response in Collas. These findings are not only relevant to understand the evolution of hypoxia protection in high altitude populations but may also suggest new avenues for medical research into conditions where hypoxia constitutes a detrimental factor.
PMCID: PMC3970967  PMID: 24686296
10.  Ancient human genome sequence of an extinct Palaeo-Eskimo 
Nature  2010;463(7282):757-762.
We report here the genome sequence of an ancient human. Obtained from ∼4,000-year-old permafrost-preserved hair, the genome represents a male individual from the first known culture to settle in Greenland. Sequenced to an average depth of 20×, we recover 79% of the diploid genome, an amount close to the practical limit of current sequencing technologies. We identify 353,151 high-confidence single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), of which 6.8% have not been reported previously. We estimate raw read contamination to be no higher than 0.8%. We use functional SNP assessment to assign possible phenotypic characteristics of the individual that belonged to a culture whose location has yielded only trace human remains. We compare the high-confidence SNPs to those of contemporary populations to find the populations most closely related to the individual. This provides evidence for a migration from Siberia into the New World some 5,500 years ago, independent of that giving rise to the modern Native Americans and Inuit.
PMCID: PMC3951495  PMID: 20148029
11.  Distinguishing the co-ancestries of haplogroup G Y-chromosomes in the populations of Europe and the Caucasus 
European Journal of Human Genetics  2012;20(12):1275-1282.
Haplogroup G, together with J2 clades, has been associated with the spread of agriculture, especially in the European context. However, interpretations based on simple haplogroup frequency clines do not recognize underlying patterns of genetic diversification. Although progress has been recently made in resolving the haplogroup G phylogeny, a comprehensive survey of the geographic distribution patterns of the significant sub-clades of this haplogroup has not been conducted yet. Here we present the haplogroup frequency distribution and STR variation of 16 informative G sub-clades by evaluating 1472 haplogroup G chromosomes belonging to 98 populations ranging from Europe to Pakistan. Although no basal G-M201* chromosomes were detected in our data set, the homeland of this haplogroup has been estimated to be somewhere nearby eastern Anatolia, Armenia or western Iran, the only areas characterized by the co-presence of deep basal branches as well as the occurrence of high sub-haplogroup diversity. The P303 SNP defines the most frequent and widespread G sub-haplogroup. However, its sub-clades have more localized distribution with the U1-defined branch largely restricted to Near/Middle Eastern and the Caucasus, whereas L497 lineages essentially occur in Europe where they likely originated. In contrast, the only U1 representative in Europe is the G-M527 lineage whose distribution pattern is consistent with regions of Greek colonization. No clinal patterns were detected suggesting that the distributions are rather indicative of isolation by distance and demographic complexities.
PMCID: PMC3499744  PMID: 22588667
Y-chromosome; haplogroup G; human evolution; population genetics
12.  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
13.  A general linear model-based approach for inferring selection to climate 
BMC Genetics  2013;14:87.
Many efforts have been made to detect signatures of positive selection in the human genome, especially those associated with expansion from Africa and subsequent colonization of all other continents. However, most approaches have not directly probed the relationship between the environment and patterns of variation among humans. We have designed a method to identify regions of the genome under selection based on Mantel tests conducted within a general linear model framework, which we call MAntel-GLM to Infer Clinal Selection (MAGICS). MAGICS explicitly incorporates population-specific and genome-wide patterns of background variation as well as information from environmental values to provide an improved picture of selection and its underlying causes in human populations.
Our results significantly overlap with those obtained by other published methodologies, but MAGICS has several advantages. These include improvements that: limit false positives by reducing the number of independent tests conducted and by correcting for geographic distance, which we found to be a major contributor to selection signals; yield absolute rather than relative estimates of significance; identify specific geographic regions linked most strongly to particular signals of selection; and detect recent balancing as well as directional selection.
We find evidence of selection associated with climate (P < 10-5) in 354 genes, and among these observe a highly significant enrichment for directional positive selection. Two of our strongest 'hits’, however, ADRA2A and ADRA2C, implicated in vasoconstriction in response to cold and pain stimuli, show evidence of balancing selection. Our results clearly demonstrate evidence of climate-related signals of directional and balancing selection.
PMCID: PMC3853933  PMID: 24053227
Climate; Adaptation; Human evolution; Natural selection; Environmental adaptation; Population genetics
14.  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
15.  Genetic Signatures Reveal High-Altitude Adaptation in a Set of Ethiopian Populations 
Molecular Biology and Evolution  2013;30(8):1877-1888.
The Tibetan and Andean Plateaus and Ethiopian highlands are the largest regions to have long-term high-altitude residents. Such populations are exposed to lower barometric pressures and hence atmospheric partial pressures of oxygen. Such “hypobaric hypoxia” may limit physical functional capacity, reproductive health, and even survival. As such, selection of genetic variants advantageous to hypoxic adaptation is likely to have occurred. Identifying signatures of such selection is likely to help understanding of hypoxic adaptive processes. Here, we seek evidence of such positive selection using five Ethiopian populations, three of which are from high-altitude areas in Ethiopia. As these populations may have been recipients of Eurasian gene flow, we correct for this admixture. Using single-nucleotide polymorphism genotype data from multiple populations, we find the strongest signal of selection in BHLHE41 (also known as DEC2 or SHARP1). Remarkably, a major role of this gene is regulation of the same hypoxia response pathway on which selection has most strikingly been observed in both Tibetan and Andean populations. Because it is also an important player in the circadian rhythm pathway, BHLHE41 might also provide insights into the mechanisms underlying the recognized impacts of hypoxia on the circadian clock. These results support the view that Ethiopian, Andean, and Tibetan populations living at high altitude have adapted to hypoxia differently, with convergent evolution affecting different genes from the same pathway.
PMCID: PMC3708501  PMID: 23666210
adaptation to high altitude; natural selection
16.  Divorcing the Late Upper Palaeolithic demographic histories of mtDNA haplogroups M1 and U6 in Africa 
A Southwest Asian origin and dispersal to North Africa in the Early Upper Palaeolithic era has been inferred in previous studies for mtDNA haplogroups M1 and U6. Both haplogroups have been proposed to show similar geographic patterns and shared demographic histories.
We report here 24 M1 and 33 U6 new complete mtDNA sequences that allow us to refine the existing phylogeny of these haplogroups. The resulting phylogenetic information was used to genotype a further 131 M1 and 91 U6 samples to determine the geographic spread of their sub-clades. No southwest Asian specific clades for M1 or U6 were discovered. U6 and M1 frequencies in North Africa, the Middle East and Europe do not follow similar patterns, and their sub-clade divisions do not appear to be compatible with their shared history reaching back to the Early Upper Palaeolithic. The Bayesian Skyline Plots testify to non-overlapping phases of expansion, and the haplogroups’ phylogenies suggest that there are U6 sub-clades that expanded earlier than those in M1. Some M1 and U6 sub-clades could be linked with certain events. For example, U6a1 and M1b, with their coalescent ages of ~20,000–22,000 years ago and earliest inferred expansion in northwest Africa, could coincide with the flourishing of the Iberomaurusian industry, whilst U6b and M1b1 appeared at the time of the Capsian culture.
Our high-resolution phylogenetic dissection of both haplogroups and coalescent time assessments suggest that the extant main branching pattern of both haplogroups arose and diversified in the mid-later Upper Palaeolithic, with some sub-clades concomitantly with the expansion of the Iberomaurusian industry. Carriers of these maternal lineages have been later absorbed into and diversified further during the spread of Afro-Asiatic languages in North and East Africa.
PMCID: PMC3582464  PMID: 23206491
mtDNA haplogroups M1 and U6; Afro-Asiatic languages; North Africa
17.  The Phylogeography of Y-Chromosome Haplogroup H1a1a-M82 Reveals the Likely Indian Origin of the European Romani Populations 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e48477.
Linguistic and genetic studies on Roma populations inhabited in Europe have unequivocally traced these populations to the Indian subcontinent. However, the exact parental population group and time of the out-of-India dispersal have remained disputed. In the absence of archaeological records and with only scanty historical documentation of the Roma, comparative linguistic studies were the first to identify their Indian origin. Recently, molecular studies on the basis of disease-causing mutations and haploid DNA markers (i.e. mtDNA and Y-chromosome) supported the linguistic view. The presence of Indian-specific Y-chromosome haplogroup H1a1a-M82 and mtDNA haplogroups M5a1, M18 and M35b among Roma has corroborated that their South Asian origins and later admixture with Near Eastern and European populations. However, previous studies have left unanswered questions about the exact parental population groups in South Asia. Here we present a detailed phylogeographical study of Y-chromosomal haplogroup H1a1a-M82 in a data set of more than 10,000 global samples to discern a more precise ancestral source of European Romani populations. The phylogeographical patterns and diversity estimates indicate an early origin of this haplogroup in the Indian subcontinent and its further expansion to other regions. Tellingly, the short tandem repeat (STR) based network of H1a1a-M82 lineages displayed the closest connection of Romani haplotypes with the traditional scheduled caste and scheduled tribe population groups of northwestern India.
PMCID: PMC3509117  PMID: 23209554
18.  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
19.  A major Y-chromosome haplogroup R1b Holocene era founder effect in Central and Western Europe 
The phylogenetic relationships of numerous branches within the core Y-chromosome haplogroup R-M207 support a West Asian origin of haplogroup R1b, its initial differentiation there followed by a rapid spread of one of its sub-clades carrying the M269 mutation to Europe. Here, we present phylogeographically resolved data for 2043 M269-derived Y-chromosomes from 118 West Asian and European populations assessed for the M412 SNP that largely separates the majority of Central and West European R1b lineages from those observed in Eastern Europe, the Circum-Uralic region, the Near East, the Caucasus and Pakistan. Within the M412 dichotomy, the major S116 sub-clade shows a frequency peak in the upper Danube basin and Paris area with declining frequency toward Italy, Iberia, Southern France and British Isles. Although this frequency pattern closely approximates the spread of the Linearbandkeramik (LBK), Neolithic culture, an advent leading to a number of pre-historic cultural developments during the past ≤10 thousand years, more complex pre-Neolithic scenarios remain possible for the L23(xM412) components in Southeast Europe and elsewhere.
PMCID: PMC3039512  PMID: 20736979
Y-chromosome; haplogroup R1b; human evolution; population genetics
21.  Separating the post-Glacial coancestry of European and Asian Y chromosomes within haplogroup R1a 
Human Y-chromosome haplogroup structure is largely circumscribed by continental boundaries. One notable exception to this general pattern is the young haplogroup R1a that exhibits post-Glacial coalescent times and relates the paternal ancestry of more than 10% of men in a wide geographic area extending from South Asia to Central East Europe and South Siberia. Its origin and dispersal patterns are poorly understood as no marker has yet been described that would distinguish European R1a chromosomes from Asian. Here we present frequency and haplotype diversity estimates for more than 2000 R1a chromosomes assessed for several newly discovered SNP markers that introduce the onset of informative R1a subdivisions by geography. Marker M434 has a low frequency and a late origin in West Asia bearing witness to recent gene flow over the Arabian Sea. Conversely, marker M458 has a significant frequency in Europe, exceeding 30% in its core area in Eastern Europe and comprising up to 70% of all M17 chromosomes present there. The diversity and frequency profiles of M458 suggest its origin during the early Holocene and a subsequent expansion likely related to a number of prehistoric cultural developments in the region. Its primary frequency and diversity distribution correlates well with some of the major Central and East European river basins where settled farming was established before its spread further eastward. Importantly, the virtual absence of M458 chromosomes outside Europe speaks against substantial patrilineal gene flow from East Europe to Asia, including to India, at least since the mid-Holocene.
PMCID: PMC2987245  PMID: 19888303
Y chromosome; haplogroup R1a; human evolution; population genetics
22.  Traces of sub-Saharan and Middle Eastern lineages in Indian Muslim populations 
Islam is the second most practiced religion in India, next to Hinduism. It is still unclear whether the spread of Islam in India has been only a cultural transformation or is associated with detectable levels of gene flow. To estimate the contribution of West Asian and Arabian admixture to Indian Muslims, we assessed genetic variation in mtDNA, Y-chromosomal and LCT/MCM6 markers in 472, 431 and 476 samples, respectively, representing six Muslim communities from different geographical regions of India. We found that most of the Indian Muslim populations received their major genetic input from geographically close non-Muslim populations. However, low levels of likely sub-Saharan African, Arabian and West Asian admixture were also observed among Indian Muslims in the form of L0a2a2 mtDNA and E1b1b1a and J*(xJ2) Y-chromosomal lineages. The distinction between Iranian and Arabian sources was difficult to make with mtDNA and the Y chromosome, as the estimates were highly correlated because of similar gene pool compositions in the sources. In contrast, the LCT/MCM6 locus, which shows a clear distinction between the two sources, enabled us to rule out significant gene flow from Arabia. Overall, our results support a model according to which the spread of Islam in India was predominantly cultural conversion associated with minor but still detectable levels of gene flow from outside, primarily from Iran and Central Asia, rather than directly from the Arabian Peninsula.
PMCID: PMC2859343  PMID: 19809480
Indian Muslims; mtDNA; Y chromosome; Middle East; sub-Saharan; gene flow
23.  The emergence of Y-chromosome haplogroup J1e among Arabic-speaking populations 
Haplogroup J1 is a prevalent Y-chromosome lineage within the Near East. We report the frequency and YSTR diversity data for its major sub-clade (J1e). The overall expansion time estimated from 453 chromosomes is 10 000 years. Moreover, the previously described J1 (DYS388=13) chromosomes, frequently found in the Caucasus and eastern Anatolian populations, were ancestral to J1e and displayed an expansion time of 9000 years. For J1e, the Zagros/Taurus mountain region displays the highest haplotype diversity, although the J1e frequency increases toward the peripheral Arabian Peninsula. The southerly pattern of decreasing expansion time estimates is consistent with the serial drift and founder effect processes. The first such migration is predicted to have occurred at the onset of the Neolithic, and accordingly J1e parallels the establishment of rain-fed agriculture and semi-nomadic herders throughout the Fertile Crescent. Subsequently, J1e lineages might have been involved in episodes of the expansion of pastoralists into arid habitats coinciding with the spread of Arabic and other Semitic-speaking populations.
PMCID: PMC2987219  PMID: 19826455
Y-chromosome haplogroup J1e; Neolithic; Arabic languages; pastoralism
24.  The Influence of Natural Barriers in Shaping the Genetic Structure of Maharashtra Populations 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(12):e15283.
The geographical position of Maharashtra state makes it rather essential to study the dispersal of modern humans in South Asia. Several hypotheses have been proposed to explain the cultural, linguistic and geographical affinity of the populations living in Maharashtra state with other South Asian populations. The genetic origin of populations living in this state is poorly understood and hitherto been described at low molecular resolution level.
Methodology/Principal Findings
To address this issue, we have analyzed the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) of 185 individuals and NRY (non-recombining region of Y chromosome) of 98 individuals belonging to two major tribal populations of Maharashtra, and compared their molecular variations with that of 54 South Asian contemporary populations of adjacent states. Inter and intra population comparisons reveal that the maternal gene pool of Maharashtra state populations is composed of mainly South Asian haplogroups with traces of east and west Eurasian haplogroups, while the paternal haplogroups comprise the South Asian as well as signature of near eastern specific haplogroup J2a.
Our analysis suggests that Indian populations, including Maharashtra state, are largely derived from Paleolithic ancient settlers; however, a more recent (∼10 Ky older) detectable paternal gene flow from west Asia is well reflected in the present study. These findings reveal movement of populations to Maharashtra through the western coast rather than mainland where Western Ghats-Vindhya Mountains and Narmada-Tapti rivers might have acted as a natural barrier. Comparing the Maharastrian populations with other South Asian populations reveals that they have a closer affinity with the South Indian than with the Central Indian populations.
PMCID: PMC3004917  PMID: 21187967

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