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1.  Resolving the ancestry of Austronesian-speaking populations 
Human Genetics  2016;135:309-326.
There are two very different interpretations of the prehistory of Island Southeast Asia (ISEA), with genetic evidence invoked in support of both. The “out-of-Taiwan” model proposes a major Late Holocene expansion of Neolithic Austronesian speakers from Taiwan. An alternative, proposing that Late Glacial/postglacial sea-level rises triggered largely autochthonous dispersals, accounts for some otherwise enigmatic genetic patterns, but fails to explain the Austronesian language dispersal. Combining mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), Y-chromosome and genome-wide data, we performed the most comprehensive analysis of the region to date, obtaining highly consistent results across all three systems and allowing us to reconcile the models. We infer a primarily common ancestry for Taiwan/ISEA populations established before the Neolithic, but also detected clear signals of two minor Late Holocene migrations, probably representing Neolithic input from both Mainland Southeast Asia and South China, via Taiwan. This latter may therefore have mediated the Austronesian language dispersal, implying small-scale migration and language shift rather than large-scale expansion.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00439-015-1620-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4757630  PMID: 26781090
2.  Genetic Stratigraphy of Key Demographic Events in Arabia 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(3):e0118625.
At the crossroads between Africa and Eurasia, Arabia is necessarily a melting pot, its peoples enriched by successive gene flow over the generations. Estimating the timing and impact of these multiple migrations are important steps in reconstructing the key demographic events in the human history. However, current methods based on genome-wide information identify admixture events inefficiently, tending to estimate only the more recent ages, as here in the case of admixture events across the Red Sea (∼8–37 generations for African input into Arabia, and 30–90 generations for “back-to-Africa” migrations). An mtDNA-based founder analysis, corroborated by detailed analysis of the whole-mtDNA genome, affords an alternative means by which to identify, date and quantify multiple migration events at greater time depths, across the full range of modern human history, albeit for the maternal line of descent only. In Arabia, this approach enables us to infer several major pulses of dispersal between the Near East and Arabia, most likely via the Gulf corridor. Although some relict lineages survive in Arabia from the time of the out-of-Africa dispersal, 60 ka, the major episodes in the peopling of the Peninsula took place from north to south in the Late Glacial and, to a lesser extent, the immediate post-glacial/Neolithic. Exchanges across the Red Sea were mainly due to the Arab slave trade and maritime dominance (from ∼2.5 ka to very recent times), but had already begun by the early Holocene, fuelled by the establishment of maritime networks since ∼8 ka. The main “back-to-Africa” migrations, again undetected by genome-wide dating analyses, occurred in the Late Glacial period for introductions into eastern Africa, whilst the Neolithic was more significant for migrations towards North Africa.
PMCID: PMC4349752  PMID: 25738654
3.  A genetic contribution from the Far East into Ashkenazi Jews via the ancient Silk Road 
Scientific Reports  2015;5:8377.
Contemporary Jews retain a genetic imprint from their Near Eastern ancestry, but obtained substantial genetic components from their neighboring populations during their history. Whether they received any genetic contribution from the Far East remains unknown, but frequent communication with the Chinese has been observed since the Silk Road period. To address this issue, mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) variation from 55,595 Eurasians are analyzed. The existence of some eastern Eurasian haplotypes in eastern Ashkenazi Jews supports an East Asian genetic contribution, likely from Chinese. Further evidence indicates that this connection can be attributed to a gene flow event that occurred less than 1.4 kilo-years ago (kya), which falls within the time frame of the Silk Road scenario and fits well with historical records and archaeological discoveries. This observed genetic contribution from Chinese to Ashkenazi Jews demonstrates that the historical exchange between Ashkenazim and the Far East was not confined to the cultural sphere but also extended to an exchange of genes.
PMCID: PMC4323646  PMID: 25669617
4.  The First Modern Human Dispersals across Africa 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e80031.
The emergence of more refined chronologies for climate change and archaeology in prehistoric Africa, and for the evolution of human mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), now make it feasible to test more sophisticated models of early modern human dispersals suggested by mtDNA distributions. Here we have generated 42 novel whole-mtDNA genomes belonging to haplogroup L0, the most divergent clade in the maternal line of descent, and analysed them alongside the growing database of African lineages belonging to L0’s sister clade, L1’6. We propose that the last common ancestor of modern human mtDNAs (carried by “mitochondrial Eve”) possibly arose in central Africa ~180 ka, at a time of low population size. By ~130 ka two distinct groups of anatomically modern humans co-existed in Africa: broadly, the ancestors of many modern-day Khoe and San populations in the south and a second central/eastern African group that includes the ancestors of most extant worldwide populations. Early modern human dispersals correlate with climate changes, particularly the tropical African “megadroughts” of MIS 5 (marine isotope stage 5, 135–75 ka) which paradoxically may have facilitated expansions in central and eastern Africa, ultimately triggering the dispersal out of Africa of people carrying haplogroup L3 ~60 ka. Two south to east migrations are discernible within haplogroup LO. One, between 120 and 75 ka, represents the first unambiguous long-range modern human dispersal detected by mtDNA and might have allowed the dispersal of several markers of modernity. A second one, within the last 20 ka signalled by L0d, may have been responsible for the spread of southern click-consonant languages to eastern Africa, contrary to the view that these eastern examples constitute relicts of an ancient, much wider distribution.
PMCID: PMC3827445  PMID: 24236171
5.  A substantial prehistoric European ancestry amongst Ashkenazi maternal lineages 
Nature Communications  2013;4:2543.
The origins of Ashkenazi Jews remain highly controversial. Like Judaism, mitochondrial DNA is passed along the maternal line. Its variation in the Ashkenazim is highly distinctive, with four major and numerous minor founders. However, due to their rarity in the general population, these founders have been difficult to trace to a source. Here we show that all four major founders, ~40% of Ashkenazi mtDNA variation, have ancestry in prehistoric Europe, rather than the Near East or Caucasus. Furthermore, most of the remaining minor founders share a similar deep European ancestry. Thus the great majority of Ashkenazi maternal lineages were not brought from the Levant, as commonly supposed, nor recruited in the Caucasus, as sometimes suggested, but assimilated within Europe. These results point to a significant role for the conversion of women in the formation of Ashkenazi communities, and provide the foundation for a detailed reconstruction of Ashkenazi genealogical history.
Ashkenazi mitochondrial DNA variation has four major founders whose sources are difficult to trace due to the rarity of Ashkenazi Jews in the general population. Here, the authors provide evidence that all four major founders originated from Europe and provide a genealogical record of the Ashkenazi.
PMCID: PMC3806353  PMID: 24104924
6.  Mitogenomes from Two Uncommon Haplogroups Mark Late Glacial/Postglacial Expansions from the Near East and Neolithic Dispersals within Europe 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e70492.
The current human mitochondrial (mtDNA) phylogeny does not equally represent all human populations but is biased in favour of representatives originally from north and central Europe. This especially affects the phylogeny of some uncommon West Eurasian haplogroups, including I and W, whose southern European and Near Eastern components are very poorly represented, suggesting that extensive hidden phylogenetic substructure remains to be uncovered. This study expanded and re-analysed the available datasets of I and W complete mtDNA genomes, reaching a comprehensive 419 mitogenomes, and searched for precise correlations between the ages and geographical distributions of their numerous newly identified subclades with events of human dispersal which contributed to the genetic formation of modern Europeans. Our results showed that haplogroups I (within N1a1b) and W originated in the Near East during the Last Glacial Maximum or pre-warming period (the period of gradual warming between the end of the LGM, ∼19 ky ago, and the beginning of the first main warming phase, ∼15 ky ago) and, like the much more common haplogroups J and T, may have been involved in Late Glacial expansions starting from the Near East. Thus our data contribute to a better definition of the Late and postglacial re-peopling of Europe, providing further evidence for the scenario that major population expansions started after the Last Glacial Maximum but before Neolithic times, but also evidencing traces of diffusion events in several I and W subclades dating to the European Neolithic and restricted to Europe.
PMCID: PMC3729697  PMID: 23936216
7.  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
8.  Population expansion in the North African Late Pleistocene signalled by mitochondrial DNA haplogroup U6 
The archaeology of North Africa remains enigmatic, with questions of population continuity versus discontinuity taking centre-stage. Debates have focused on population transitions between the bearers of the Middle Palaeolithic Aterian industry and the later Upper Palaeolithic populations of the Maghreb, as well as between the late Pleistocene and Holocene.
Improved resolution of the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) haplogroup U6 phylogeny, by the screening of 39 new complete sequences, has enabled us to infer a signal of moderate population expansion using Bayesian coalescent methods. To ascertain the time for this expansion, we applied both a mutation rate accounting for purifying selection and one with an internal calibration based on four approximate archaeological dates: the settlement of the Canary Islands, the settlement of Sardinia and its internal population re-expansion, and the split between haplogroups U5 and U6 around the time of the first modern human settlement of the Near East.
A Bayesian skyline plot placed the main expansion in the time frame of the Late Pleistocene, around 20 ka, and spatial smoothing techniques suggested that the most probable geographic region for this demographic event was to the west of North Africa. A comparison with U6's European sister clade, U5, revealed a stronger population expansion at around this time in Europe. Also in contrast with U5, a weak signal of a recent population expansion in the last 5,000 years was observed in North Africa, pointing to a moderate impact of the late Neolithic on the local population size of the southern Mediterranean coast.
PMCID: PMC3016289  PMID: 21176127
9.  A Complete Mitochondrial Genome Sequence from a Mesolithic Wild Aurochs (Bos primigenius) 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(2):e9255.
The derivation of domestic cattle from the extinct wild aurochs (Bos primigenius) has been well-documented by archaeological and genetic studies. Genetic studies point towards the Neolithic Near East as the centre of origin for Bos taurus, with some lines of evidence suggesting possible, albeit rare, genetic contributions from locally domesticated wild aurochsen across Eurasia. Inferences from these investigations have been based largely on the analysis of partial mitochondrial DNA sequences generated from modern animals, with limited sequence data from ancient aurochsen samples. Recent developments in DNA sequencing technologies, however, are affording new opportunities for the examination of genetic material retrieved from extinct species, providing new insight into their evolutionary history. Here we present DNA sequence analysis of the first complete mitochondrial genome (16,338 base pairs) from an archaeologically-verified and exceptionally-well preserved aurochs bone sample.
DNA extracts were generated from an aurochs humerus bone sample recovered from a cave site located in Derbyshire, England and radiocarbon-dated to 6,738±68 calibrated years before present. These extracts were prepared for both Sanger and next generation DNA sequencing technologies (Illumina Genome Analyzer). In total, 289.9 megabases (22.48%) of the post-filtered DNA sequences generated using the Illumina Genome Analyzer from this sample mapped with confidence to the bovine genome. A consensus B. primigenius mitochondrial genome sequence was constructed and was analysed alongside all available complete bovine mitochondrial genome sequences.
For all nucleotide positions where both Sanger and Illumina Genome Analyzer sequencing methods gave high-confidence calls, no discrepancies were observed. Sequence analysis reveals evidence of heteroplasmy in this sample and places this mitochondrial genome sequence securely within a previously identified aurochsen haplogroup (haplogroup P), thus providing novel insights into pre-domestic patterns of variation. The high proportion of authentic, endogenous aurochs DNA preserved in this sample bodes well for future efforts to determine the complete genome sequence of a wild ancestor of domestic cattle.
PMCID: PMC2822870  PMID: 20174668
10.  Mitochondrial Echoes of First Settlement and Genetic Continuity in El Salvador 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(9):e6882.
From Paleo-Indian times to recent historical episodes, the Mesoamerican isthmus played an important role in the distribution and patterns of variability all around the double American continent. However, the amount of genetic information currently available on Central American continental populations is very scarce. In order to shed light on the role of Mesoamerica in the peopling of the New World, the present study focuses on the analysis of the mtDNA variation in a population sample from El Salvador.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We have carried out DNA sequencing of the entire control region of the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) genome in 90 individuals from El Salvador. We have also compiled more than 3,985 control region profiles from the public domain and the literature in order to carry out inter-population comparisons. The results reveal a predominant Native American component in this region: by far, the most prevalent mtDNA haplogroup in this country (at ∼90%) is A2, in contrast with other North, Meso- and South American populations. Haplogroup A2 shows a star-like phylogeny and is very diverse with a substantial proportion of mtDNAs (45%; sequence range 16090–16365) still unobserved in other American populations. Two different Bayesian approaches used to estimate admixture proportions in El Salvador shows that the majority of the mtDNAs observed come from North America. A preliminary founder analysis indicates that the settlement of El Salvador occurred about 13,400±5,200 Y.B.P.. The founder age of A2 in El Salvador is close to the overall age of A2 in America, which suggests that the colonization of this region occurred within a few thousand years of the initial expansion into the Americas.
As a whole, the results are compatible with the hypothesis that today's A2 variability in El Salvador represents to a large extent the indigenous component of the region. Concordant with this hypothesis is also the observation of a very limited contribution from European and African women (∼5%). This implies that the Atlantic slave trade had a very small demographic impact in El Salvador in contrast to its transformation of the gene pool in neighbouring populations from the Caribbean facade.
PMCID: PMC2731219  PMID: 19724647
11.  A common MYBPC3 (cardiac myosin binding protein C) variant associated with cardiomyopathies in South Asia 
Nature genetics  2009;41(2):187-191.
Heart failure is a leading cause of mortality in South Asians. However, its genetic etiology remains largely unknown1. Cardiomyopathies due to sarcomeric mutations are a major monogenic cause for heart failure (MIM600958). Here, we describe a deletion of 25 bp in the gene encoding cardiac myosin binding protein C (MYBPC3) that is associated with heritable cardiomyopathies and an increased risk of heart failure in Indian populations (initial study OR = 5.3 (95% CI = 2.3–13), P = 2 × 10−6; replication study OR = 8.59 (3.19–25.05), P = 3 × 10−8; combined OR = 6.99 (3.68–13.57), P = 4 × 10−11) and that disrupts cardiomyocyte structure in vitro. Its prevalence was found to be high (~4%) in populations of Indian subcontinental ancestry. The finding of a common risk factor implicated in South Asian subjects with cardiomyopathy will help in identifying and counseling individuals predisposed to cardiac diseases in this region.
PMCID: PMC2697598  PMID: 19151713

Results 1-11 (11)