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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
3.  Population Differentiation of Southern Indian Male Lineages Correlates with Agricultural Expansions Predating the Caste System 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e50269.
Previous studies that pooled Indian populations from a wide variety of geographical locations, have obtained contradictory conclusions about the processes of the establishment of the Varna caste system and its genetic impact on the origins and demographic histories of Indian populations. To further investigate these questions we took advantage that both Y chromosome and caste designation are paternally inherited, and genotyped 1,680 Y chromosomes representing 12 tribal and 19 non-tribal (caste) endogamous populations from the predominantly Dravidian-speaking Tamil Nadu state in the southernmost part of India. Tribes and castes were both characterized by an overwhelming proportion of putatively Indian autochthonous Y-chromosomal haplogroups (H-M69, F-M89, R1a1-M17, L1-M27, R2-M124, and C5-M356; 81% combined) with a shared genetic heritage dating back to the late Pleistocene (10–30 Kya), suggesting that more recent Holocene migrations from western Eurasia contributed <20% of the male lineages. We found strong evidence for genetic structure, associated primarily with the current mode of subsistence. Coalescence analysis suggested that the social stratification was established 4–6 Kya and there was little admixture during the last 3 Kya, implying a minimal genetic impact of the Varna (caste) system from the historically-documented Brahmin migrations into the area. In contrast, the overall Y-chromosomal patterns, the time depth of population diversifications and the period of differentiation were best explained by the emergence of agricultural technology in South Asia. These results highlight the utility of detailed local genetic studies within India, without prior assumptions about the importance of Varna rank status for population grouping, to obtain new insights into the relative influences of past demographic events for the population structure of the whole of modern India.
PMCID: PMC3508930  PMID: 23209694
5.  Leprosy and the Adaptation of Human Toll-Like Receptor 1 
PLoS Pathogens  2010;6(7):e1000979.
Leprosy is an infectious disease caused by the obligate intracellular pathogen Mycobacterium leprae and remains endemic in many parts of the world. Despite several major studies on susceptibility to leprosy, few genomic loci have been replicated independently. We have conducted an association analysis of more than 1,500 individuals from different case-control and family studies, and observed consistent associations between genetic variants in both TLR1 and the HLA-DRB1/DQA1 regions with susceptibility to leprosy (TLR1 I602S, case-control P = 5.7×10−8, OR = 0.31, 95% CI = 0.20–0.48, and HLA-DQA1 rs1071630, case-control P = 4.9×10−14, OR = 0.43, 95% CI = 0.35–0.54). The effect sizes of these associations suggest that TLR1 and HLA-DRB1/DQA1 are major susceptibility genes in susceptibility to leprosy. Further population differentiation analysis shows that the TLR1 locus is extremely differentiated. The protective dysfunctional 602S allele is rare in Africa but expands to become the dominant allele among individuals of European descent. This supports the hypothesis that this locus may be under selection from mycobacteria or other pathogens that are recognized by TLR1 and its co-receptors. These observations provide insight into the long standing host-pathogen relationship between human and mycobacteria and highlight the key role of the TLR pathway in infectious diseases.
Author Summary
Mycobacterium leprae is an obligate intracellular pathogen that causes leprosy, a disease that shares a long history with the human population but which remains endemic in many parts of the world. Despite the fact that the genome of M. leprae has been sequenced, our understanding of its pathogenesis and interaction with the human host is limited, in part due to the inability to culture the bacterium in vitro. In this gene-centric microarray study, we have genotyped SNPs in over 2,000 genes and identified TLR1 and HLA-DRB1/DQA1 as major leprosy susceptibility genes. Studying the geographical distribution of this hypo-functional TLR1 variant demonstrated extreme population differentiation at this locus. These results suggest that leprosy may have contributed to the evolution of this genomic region, and provide insight into the long history of the host-pathogen relationship between humans and M. leprae.
PMCID: PMC2895660  PMID: 20617178
6.  Geographic population structure analysis of worldwide human populations infers their biogeographical origins 
Nature Communications  2014;5:3513.
The search for a method that utilizes biological information to predict humans’ place of origin has occupied scientists for millennia. Over the past four decades, scientists have employed genetic data in an effort to achieve this goal but with limited success. While biogeographical algorithms using next-generation sequencing data have achieved an accuracy of 700 km in Europe, they were inaccurate elsewhere. Here we describe the Geographic Population Structure (GPS) algorithm and demonstrate its accuracy with three data sets using 40,000–130,000 SNPs. GPS placed 83% of worldwide individuals in their country of origin. Applied to over 200 Sardinians villagers, GPS placed a quarter of them in their villages and most of the rest within 50 km of their villages. GPS’s accuracy and power to infer the biogeography of worldwide individuals down to their country or, in some cases, village, of origin, underscores the promise of admixture-based methods for biogeography and has ramifications for genetic ancestry testing.
Current methods to identify the geographical origin of humans based on DNA data present limited accuracy. Here, the authors develop a new algorithm, the Genographic Population Structure (GPS), and demonstrate its ability to place worldwide individuals within their country or, in some cases, village of origin.
PMCID: PMC4007635  PMID: 24781250

Results 1-6 (6)