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1.  Mitochondrial DNA variations in Madras motor neuron disease 
Mitochondrion  2013;13(6):721-728.
Although the Madras Motor Neuron Disease (MMND) was found three decades ago, its genetic basis has not been elucidated, so far. The symptom at onset was impaired hearing, upper limb weakness and atrophy. Since some clinical features of MMND overlap with mitochondrial disorders, we analyzed the complete mitochondrial genome of 45 MMND patients and found 396 variations, including 13 disease-associated, 2 mt-tRNA and 33 non-synonymous (16 MT-ND, 10 MT-CO, 3 MT-CYB and 4 MT-ATPase). A rare variant (m.8302A>G) in mt-tRNALeu was found in three patients. We predict that these variation(s) may influence the disease pathogenesis along with some unknown factor(s).
PMCID: PMC4805120  PMID: 23419391
MMND; deafness; mitochondria; mtDNA; tRNA; haplogroup
2.  Unravelling the distinct strains of Tharu ancestry 
European Journal of Human Genetics  2014;22(12):1404-1412.
The northern region of the Indian subcontinent is a vast landscape interlaced by diverse ecologies, for example, the Gangetic Plain and the Himalayas. A great number of ethnic groups are found there, displaying a multitude of languages and cultures. The Tharu is one of the largest and most linguistically diverse of such groups, scattered across the Tarai region of Nepal and bordering Indian states. Their origins are uncertain. Hypotheses have been advanced postulating shared ancestry with Austroasiatic, or Tibeto-Burman-speaking populations as well as aboriginal roots in the Tarai. Several Tharu groups speak a variety of Indo-Aryan languages, but have traditionally been described by ethnographers as representing East Asian phenotype. Their ancestry and intra-population diversity has previously been tested only for haploid (mitochondrial DNA and Y-chromosome) markers in a small portion of the population. This study presents the first systematic genetic survey of the Tharu from both Nepal and two Indian states of Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh, using genome-wide SNPs and haploid markers. We show that the Tharu have dual genetic ancestry as up to one-half of their gene pool is of East Asian origin. Within the South Asian proportion of the Tharu genetic ancestry, we see vestiges of their common origin in the north of the South Asian Subcontinent manifested by mitochondrial DNA haplogroup M43.
PMCID: PMC4231405  PMID: 24667789
3.  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
4.  Strong Impact of TGF-β1 Gene Polymorphisms on Breast Cancer Risk in Indian Women: A Case-Control and Population-Based Study 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e75979.
TGF-β1 is a multi-functional cytokine that plays an important role in breast carcinogenesis. Critical role of TGF-β1 signaling in breast cancer progression is well documented. Some TGF-β1 polymorphisms influence its expression; however, their impact on breast cancer risk is not clear.
We analyzed 1222 samples in a candidate gene-based genetic association study on two distantly located and ethnically divergent case-control groups of Indian women, followed by a population-based genetic epidemiology study analyzing these polymorphisms in other Indian populations. The c.29C>T (Pro10Leu, rs1982073 or rs1800470) and c.74G>C (Arg25Pro, rs1800471) polymorphisms in the TGF-β1 gene were analyzed using direct DNA sequencing, and peripheral level of TGF-β1 were measured by ELISA.
c.29C>T substitution increased breast cancer risk, irrespective of ethnicity and menopausal status. On the other hand, c.74G>C substitution reduced breast cancer risk significantly in the north Indian group (p = 0.0005) and only in the pre-menopausal women. The protective effect of c.74G>C polymorphism may be ethnicity-specific, as no association was seen in south Indian group. The polymorphic status of c.29C>T was comparable among Indo-Europeans, Dravidians, and Tibeto-Burmans. Interestingly, we found that Tibeto-Burmans lack polymorphism at c.74G>C locus as true for the Chinese populations. However, the Brahmins of Nepal (Indo-Europeans) showed polymorphism in 2.08% of alleles. Mean TGF-β1 was significantly elevated in patients in comparison to controls (p<0.001).
c.29C>T and c.74G>C polymorphisms in the TGF-β1 gene significantly affect breast cancer risk, which correlates with elevated TGF-β1 level in the patients. The c.29C>T locus is polymorphic across ethnically different populations, but c.74G>C locus is monomorphic in Tibeto-Burmans and polymorphic in other Indian populations.
PMCID: PMC3798290  PMID: 24146803
5.  Genetic Structure of Tibeto-Burman Populations of Bangladesh: Evaluating the Gene Flow along the Sides of Bay-of-Bengal 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e75064.
Human settlement and migrations along sides of Bay-of-Bengal have played a vital role in shaping the genetic landscape of Bangladesh, Eastern India and Southeast Asia. Bangladesh and Northeast India form the vital land bridge between the South and Southeast Asia. To reconstruct the population history of this region and to see whether this diverse region geographically acted as a corridor or barrier for human interaction between South Asia and Southeast Asia, we, for the first time analyzed high resolution uniparental (mtDNA and Y chromosome) and biparental autosomal genetic markers among aboriginal Bangladesh tribes currently speaking Tibeto-Burman language. All the three studied populations; Chakma, Marma and Tripura from Bangladesh showed strikingly high homogeneity among themselves and strong affinities to Northeast Indian Tibeto-Burman groups. However, they show substantially higher molecular diversity than Northeast Indian populations. Unlike Austroasiatic (Munda) speakers of India, we observed equal role of both males and females in shaping the Tibeto-Burman expansion in Southern Asia. Moreover, it is noteworthy that in admixture proportion, TB populations of Bangladesh carry substantially higher mainland Indian ancestry component than Northeast Indian Tibeto-Burmans. Largely similar expansion ages of two major paternal haplogroups (O2a and O3a3c), suggested that they arose before the differentiation of any language group and approximately at the same time. Contrary to the scenario proposed for colonization of Northeast India as male founder effect that occurred within the past 4,000 years, we suggest a significantly deep colonization of this region. Overall, our extensive analysis revealed that the population history of South Asian Tibeto-Burman speakers is more complex than it was suggested before.
PMCID: PMC3794028  PMID: 24130682
6.  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
7.  Genomic view on the peopling of India 
India is known for its vast human diversity, consisting of more than four and a half thousand anthropologically well-defined populations. Each population differs in terms of language, culture, physical features and, most importantly, genetic architecture. The size of populations varies from a few hundred to millions. Based on the social structure, Indians are classified into various caste, tribe and religious groups. These social classifications are very rigid and have remained undisturbed by emerging urbanisation and cultural changes. The variable social customs, strict endogamy marriage practices, long-term isolation and evolutionary forces have added immensely to the diversification of the Indian populations. These factors have also led to these populations acquiring a set of Indian-specific genetic variations responsible for various diseases in India. Interestingly, most of these variations are absent outside the Indian subcontinent. Thus, this review is focused on the peopling of India, the caste system, marriage practice and the resulting health and forensic implications.
PMCID: PMC3514343  PMID: 23020857
Admixture; caste; Indians; mtDNA; tribe; Y-chromosome
8.  Genetic Affinities of the Central Indian Tribal Populations 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e32546.
The central Indian state Madhya Pradesh is often called as ‘heart of India’ and has always been an important region functioning as a trinexus belt for three major language families (Indo-European, Dravidian and Austroasiatic). There are less detailed genetic studies on the populations inhabited in this region. Therefore, this study is an attempt for extensive characterization of genetic ancestries of three tribal populations, namely; Bharia, Bhil and Sahariya, inhabiting this region using haploid and diploid DNA markers.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Mitochondrial DNA analysis showed high diversity, including some of the older sublineages of M haplogroup and prominent R lineages in all the three tribes. Y-chromosomal biallelic markers revealed high frequency of Austroasiatic-specific M95-O2a haplogroup in Bharia and Sahariya, M82-H1a in Bhil and M17-R1a in Bhil and Sahariya. The results obtained by haploid as well as diploid genetic markers revealed strong genetic affinity of Bharia (a Dravidian speaking tribe) with the Austroasiatic (Munda) group. The gene flow from Austroasiatic group is further confirmed by their Y-STRs haplotype sharing analysis, where we determined their founder haplotype from the North Munda speaking tribe, while, autosomal analysis was largely in concordant with the haploid DNA results.
Bhil exhibited largely Indo-European specific ancestry, while Sahariya and Bharia showed admixed genetic package of Indo-European and Austroasiatic populations. Hence, in a landscape like India, linguistic label doesn't unequivocally follow the genetic footprints.
PMCID: PMC3290590  PMID: 22393414
9.  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

Results 1-9 (9)