Isolated populations are emerging as a powerful study design in the search for low-frequency and rare variant associations with complex phenotypes. Here we genotype 2,296 samples from two isolated Greek populations, the Pomak villages (HELIC-Pomak) in the North of Greece and the Mylopotamos villages (HELIC-MANOLIS) in Crete. We compare their genomic characteristics to the general Greek population and establish them as genetic isolates. In the MANOLIS cohort, we observe an enrichment of missense variants among the variants that have drifted up in frequency by more than fivefold. In the Pomak cohort, we find novel associations at variants on chr11p15.4 showing large allele frequency increases (from 0.2% in the general Greek population to 4.6% in the isolate) with haematological traits, for example, with mean corpuscular volume (rs7116019, P=2.3 × 10−26). We replicate this association in a second set of Pomak samples (combined P=2.0 × 10−36). We demonstrate significant power gains in detecting medical trait associations.
Isolated populations can increase power to detect low frequency and rare risk variants associated with complex phenotypes. Here, the authors identify variants associated with haematological traits in two isolated Greek populations that would be difficult to detect in the general population, due to their low frequency.
The male-specific region of the human Y chromosome (MSY) contains eight large inverted repeats (palindromes), in which high-sequence similarity between repeat arms is maintained by gene conversion. These palindromes also harbor microsatellites, considered to evolve via a stepwise mutation model (SMM). Here, we ask whether gene conversion between palindrome microsatellites contributes to their mutational dynamics. First, we study the duplicated tetranucleotide microsatellite DYS385a,b lying in palindrome P4. We show, by comparing observed data with simulated data under a SMM within haplogroups, that observed heteroallelic combinations in which the modal repeat number difference between copies was large, can give rise to homoallelic combinations with zero-repeats difference, equivalent to many single-step mutations. These are unlikely to be generated under a strict SMM, suggesting the action of gene conversion. Second, we show that the intercopy repeat number difference for a large set of duplicated microsatellites in all palindromes in the MSY reference sequence is significantly reduced compared with that for nonpalindrome-duplicated microsatellites, suggesting that the former are characterized by unusual evolutionary dynamics. These observations indicate that gene conversion violates the SMM for microsatellites in palindromes, homogenizing copies within individual Y chromosomes, but increasing overall haplotype diversity among chromosomes within related groups.
Y chromosome; gene conversion; palindrome; microsatellite; stepwise mutation model; DYS385
The somatic mutations in a cancer genome are the aggregate outcome of one or more mutational processes operative through the life of the cancer patient1-3. Each mutational process leaves a characteristic mutational signature determined by the mechanisms of DNA damage and repair that constitute it. A role was recently proposed for the APOBEC family of cytidine deaminases in generating particular genome-wide mutational signatures1,4 and a signature of localized hypermutation called kataegis1,4. A germline copy number polymorphism involving APOBEC3A and APOBEC3B, which effectively deletes APOBEC3B5, has been associated with a modest increased risk of breast cancer6-8. Here, we show that breast cancers in carriers of the deletion show more mutations of the putative APOBEC-dependent genome-wide signatures than cancers in non-carriers. The results suggest that the APOBEC3A/3B germline deletion allele confers cancer susceptibility through increased activity of APOBEC-dependent mutational processes, although the mechanism by which this occurs remains unknown.
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 700km in Europe, they were inaccurate elsewhere. Here we describe the Geographic Population Structure (GPS) algorithm and demonstrate its accuracy with three datasets 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 50km 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.
The Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium 3 anorexia nervosa genome-wide association scan includes 2907 cases from 15 different populations of European origin genotyped on the Illumina 670K chip. We compared methods for identifying population stratification, and suggest list of markers that may help to counter this problem. It is usual to identify population structure in such studies using only common variants with minor allele frequency (MAF) >5% we find that this may result in highly informative SNPs being discarded, and suggest that instead all SNPs with MAF >1% may be used. We established informative axes of variation identified via principal component analysis and highlight important features of the genetic structure of diverse European-descent populations, some studied for the first time at this scale. Finally, we investigated the substructure within each of these 15 populations and identified SNPs that help capture hidden stratification. This work can provide information regarding the designing and interpretation of association results in the International Consortia.
population stratification; AIMs; principal component analysis
In a worldwide collaborative effort, 19,630 Y-chromosomes were sampled from 129 different populations in 51 countries. These chromosomes were typed for 23 short-tandem repeat (STR) loci (DYS19, DYS389I, DYS389II, DYS390, DYS391, DYS392, DYS393, DYS385ab, DYS437, DYS438, DYS439, DYS448, DYS456, DYS458, DYS635, GATAH4, DYS481, DYS533, DYS549, DYS570, DYS576, and DYS643) and using the PowerPlex Y23 System (PPY23, Promega Corporation, Madison, WI). Locus-specific allelic spectra of these markers were determined and a consistently high level of allelic diversity was observed. A considerable number of null, duplicate and off-ladder alleles were revealed. Standard single-locus and haplotype-based parameters were calculated and compared between subsets of Y-STR markers established for forensic casework. The PPY23 marker set provides substantially stronger discriminatory power than other available kits but at the same time reveals the same general patterns of population structure as other marker sets. A strong correlation was observed between the number of Y-STRs included in a marker set and some of the forensic parameters under study. Interestingly a weak but consistent trend toward smaller genetic distances resulting from larger numbers of markers became apparent.
Gene diversity; Discriminatory power; AMOVA; Population structure; Database
Population differentiation has proved to be effective for identifying loci under geographically localized positive selection, and has the potential to identify loci subject to balancing selection. We have previously investigated the pattern of genetic differentiation among human populations at 36.8 million genomic variants to identify sites in the genome showing high frequency differences. Here, we extend this dataset to include additional variants, survey sites with low levels of differentiation, and evaluate the extent to which highly differentiated sites are likely to result from selective or other processes.
We demonstrate that while sites with low differentiation represent sampling effects rather than balancing selection, sites showing extremely high population differentiation are enriched for positive selection events and that one half may be the result of classic selective sweeps. Among these, we rediscover known examples, where we actually identify the established functional SNP, and discover novel examples including the genes ABCA12, CALD1 and ZNF804, which we speculate may be linked to adaptations in skin, calcium metabolism and defense, respectively.
We identify known and many novel candidate regions for geographically restricted positive selection, and suggest several directions for further research.
A report on the 'Genomic Disorders 2013: from 60 years of DNA to human genomes in the clinic' meeting, held at Homerton College, Cambridge, UK, April 10-12, 2013.
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.
The greater Himalayan region demarcates two of the most prominent linguistic phyla in Asia: Tibeto-Burman and Indo-European. Previous genetic surveys, mainly using Y-chromosome polymorphisms and/or mitochondrial DNA polymorphisms suggested a substantially reduced geneflow between populations belonging to these two phyla. These studies, however, have mainly focussed on populations residing far to the north and/or south of this mountain range, and have not been able to study geneflow patterns within the greater Himalayan region itself. We now report a detailed, linguistically informed, genetic survey of Tibeto-Burman and Indo-European speakers from the Himalayan countries Nepal and Bhutan based on autosomal microsatellite markers and compare these populations with surrounding regions. The genetic differentiation between populations within the Himalayas seems to be much higher than between populations in the neighbouring countries. We also observe a remarkable genetic differentiation between the Tibeto-Burman speaking populations on the one hand and Indo-European speaking populations on the other, suggesting that language and geography have played an equally large role in defining the genetic composition of present-day populations within the Himalayas.
Interpreting variants, especially noncoding ones, in the increasing
number of personal genomes is challenging. We used patterns of polymorphisms in
functionally annotated regions in 1092 humans to identify deleterious variants;
then we experimentally validated candidates. We analyzed both coding and
noncoding regions, with the former corroborating the latter. We found regions
particularly sensitive to mutations (“ultrasensitive”) and
variants that are disruptive because of mechanistic effects on
transcription-factor binding (that is, “motif-breakers”). We also
found variants in regions with higher network centrality tend to be deleterious.
Insertions and deletions followed a similar pattern to single-nucleotide
variants, with some notable exceptions (e.g., certain deletions and enhancers).
On the basis of these patterns, we developed a computational tool (FunSeq),
whose application to ~90 cancer genomes reveals nearly a hundred
candidate noncoding drivers.
We have compared phylogenies and time estimates for Y-chromosomal lineages based on resequencing ∼9 Mb of DNA and applying the program GENETREE to similar analyses based on the more standard approach of genotyping 26 Y-SNPs plus 21 Y-STRs and applying the programs NETWORK and BATWING. We find that deep phylogenetic structure is not adequately reconstructed after Y-SNP plus Y-STR genotyping, and that times estimated using observed Y-STR mutation rates are several-fold too recent. In contrast, an evolutionary mutation rate gives times that are more similar to the resequencing data. In principle, systematic comparisons of this kind can in future studies be used to identify the combinations of Y-SNP and Y-STR markers, and time estimation methodologies, that correspond best to resequencing data.
Human Y chromosome; Male history; Time estimation; Networks; BATWING
Patterns of genetic variation in a population carry information about the prehistory of the population, and for the human Y chromosome an especially informative phylogenetic tree has previously been constructed from fully-sequenced chromosomes. This revealed contrasting bifurcating and starlike phylogenies for the major lineages associated with the Neolithic expansions in sub-Saharan Africa and Western Europe, respectively.
We used coalescent simulations to investigate the range of demographic models most likely to produce the phylogenetic structures observed in Africa and Europe, assessing the starting and ending genetic effective population sizes, duration of the expansion, and time when expansion ended. The best-fitting models in Africa and Europe are very different. In Africa, the expansion took about 12 thousand years, ending very recently; it started from approximately 40 men and numbers expanded approximately 50-fold. In Europe, the expansion was much more rapid, taking only a few generations and occurring as soon as the major R1b lineage entered Europe; it started from just one to three men, whose numbers expanded more than a thousandfold.
Although highly simplified, the demographic model we have used captures key elements of the differences between the male Neolithic expansions in Africa and Europe, and is consistent with archaeological findings.
Human Y chromosome; Neolithic transition; Population expansion; Demographic modeling; Coalescent simulations; Haplogroup; R1b; E1b1a
Recent studies have examined the influence on patterns of human genetic variation of a variety of cultural practices. In India, centuries-old marriage customs have introduced extensive social structuring into the contemporary population, potentially with significant consequences for genetic variation. Social stratification in India is evident as social classes that are defined by endogamous groups known as castes. Within a caste, there exist endogamous groups known as gols (marriage circles), each of which comprises a small number of exogamous gotra (lineages). Thus, while consanguinity is strictly avoided and some randomness in mate selection occurs within the gol, gene flow is limited with populations outside the gol. Gujarati Patels practice this form of “exogamic endogamy.” We have analyzed genetic variation in one such group of Gujarati Patels, the Chha Gaam Patels (CGP), who comprise individuals from six villages. Population structure analysis of 1,200 autosomal loci offers support for the existence of distinctive multilocus genotypes in the CGP with respect to both non-Gujaratis and other Gujaratis, and indicates that CGP individuals are genetically very similar. Analysis of Y-chromosomal and mitochondrial haplotypes provides support for both patrilocal and patrilineal practices within the gol, and a low-level of female gene flow into the gol. Our study illustrates how the practice of gol endogamy has introduced fine-scale genetic structure into the population of India, and contributes more generally to an understanding of the way in which marriage practices affect patterns of genetic variation.
Endogamy; Gene Flow; HVS1; India; Y-chromosomal
Some individuals with a particular disease-causing mutation or genotype fail to express most if not all features of the disease in question, a phenomenon that is known as ‘reduced (or incomplete) penetrance’. Reduced penetrance is not uncommon; indeed, there are many known examples of ‘disease-causing mutations’ that fail to cause disease in at least a proportion of the individuals who carry them. Reduced penetrance may therefore explain not only why genetic diseases are occasionally transmitted through unaffected parents, but also why healthy individuals can harbour quite large numbers of potentially disadvantageous variants in their genomes without suffering any obvious ill effects. Reduced penetrance can be a function of the specific mutation(s) involved or of allele dosage. It may also result from differential allelic expression, copy number variation or the modulating influence of additional genetic variants in cis or in trans. The penetrance of some pathogenic genotypes is known to be age- and/or sex-dependent. Variable penetrance may also reflect the action of unlinked modifier genes, epigenetic changes or environmental factors. At least in some cases, complete penetrance appears to require the presence of one or more genetic variants at other loci. In this review, we summarize the evidence for reduced penetrance being a widespread phenomenon in human genetics and explore some of the molecular mechanisms that may help to explain this enigmatic characteristic of human inherited disease.
All non-human great apes are endangered in the wild, and it is therefore important to gain an understanding of their demography and genetic diversity. Whole genome assembly projects have provided an invaluable foundation for understanding genetics in all four genera, but to date genetic studies of multiple individuals within great ape species have largely been confined to mitochondrial DNA and a small number of other loci. Here, we present a genome-wide survey of genetic variation in gorillas using a reduced representation sequencing approach, focusing on the two lowland subspecies. We identify 3,006,670 polymorphic sites in 14 individuals: 12 western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) and 2 eastern lowland gorillas (Gorilla beringei graueri). We find that the two species are genetically distinct, based on levels of heterozygosity and patterns of allele sharing. Focusing on the western lowland population, we observe evidence for population substructure, and a deficit of rare genetic variants suggesting a recent episode of population contraction. In western lowland gorillas, there is an elevation of variation towards telomeres and centromeres on the chromosomal scale. On a finer scale, we find substantial variation in genetic diversity, including a marked reduction close to the major histocompatibility locus, perhaps indicative of recent strong selection there. These findings suggest that despite their maintaining an overall level of genetic diversity equal to or greater than that of humans, population decline, perhaps associated with disease, has been a significant factor in recent and long-term pressures on wild gorilla populations.
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.
adaptation to high altitude; natural selection
The Genographic Project is an international effort aimed at charting human migratory history. The project is nonprofit and nonmedical, and, through its Legacy Fund, supports locally led efforts to preserve indigenous and traditional cultures. Although the first phase of the project was focused on uniparentally inherited markers on the Y-chromosome and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), the current phase focuses on markers from across the entire genome to obtain a more complete understanding of human genetic variation. Although many commercial arrays exist for genome-wide single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) genotyping, they were designed for medical genetic studies and contain medically related markers that are inappropriate for global population genetic studies. GenoChip, the Genographic Project’s new genotyping array, was designed to resolve these issues and enable higher resolution research into outstanding questions in genetic anthropology. The GenoChip includes ancestry informative markers obtained for over 450 human populations, an ancient human (Saqqaq), and two archaic hominins (Neanderthal and Denisovan) and was designed to identify all known Y-chromosome and mtDNA haplogroups. The chip was carefully vetted to avoid inclusion of medically relevant markers. To demonstrate its capabilities, we compared the FST distributions of GenoChip SNPs to those of two commercial arrays. Although all arrays yielded similarly shaped (inverse J) FST distributions, the GenoChip autosomal and X-chromosomal distributions had the highest mean FST, attesting to its ability to discern subpopulations. The chip performances are illustrated in a principal component analysis for 14 worldwide populations. In summary, the GenoChip is a dedicated genotyping platform for genetic anthropology. With an unprecedented number of approximately 12,000 Y-chromosomal and approximately 3,300 mtDNA SNPs and over 130,000 autosomal and X-chromosomal SNPs without any known health, medical, or phenotypic relevance, the GenoChip is a useful tool for genetic anthropology and population genetics.
genetic anthropology; GenoChip; Genographic Project; population genetics; AimsFinder; haplogroups
The Levant is a region in the Near East with an impressive record of continuous human existence and major cultural developments since the Paleolithic period. Genetic and archeological studies present solid evidence placing the Middle East and the Arabian Peninsula as the first stepping-stone outside Africa. There is, however, little understanding of demographic changes in the Middle East, particularly the Levant, after the first Out-of-Africa expansion and how the Levantine peoples relate genetically to each other and to their neighbors. In this study we analyze more than 500,000 genome-wide SNPs in 1,341 new samples from the Levant and compare them to samples from 48 populations worldwide. Our results show recent genetic stratifications in the Levant are driven by the religious affiliations of the populations within the region. Cultural changes within the last two millennia appear to have facilitated/maintained admixture between culturally similar populations from the Levant, Arabian Peninsula, and Africa. The same cultural changes seem to have resulted in genetic isolation of other groups by limiting admixture with culturally different neighboring populations. Consequently, Levant populations today fall into two main groups: one sharing more genetic characteristics with modern-day Europeans and Central Asians, and the other with closer genetic affinities to other Middle Easterners and Africans. Finally, we identify a putative Levantine ancestral component that diverged from other Middle Easterners ∼23,700–15,500 years ago during the last glacial period, and diverged from Europeans ∼15,900–9,100 years ago between the last glacial warming and the start of the Neolithic.
Population stratification caused by nonrandom mating between groups of the same species is often due to geographical distances leading to physical separation followed by genetic drift of allele frequencies in each group. In humans, population structures are also often driven by geographical barriers or distances; however, humans might also be structured by abstract factors such as culture, a consequence of their reasoning and self-awareness. Religion in particular, is one of the unusual conceptual factors that can drive human population structures. This study explores the Levant, a region flanked by the Middle East and Europe, where individual and population relationships are still strongly influenced by religion. We show that religious affiliation had a strong impact on the genomes of the Levantines. In particular, conversion of the region's populations to Islam appears to have introduced major rearrangements in populations' relations through admixture with culturally similar but geographically remote populations, leading to genetic similarities between remarkably distant populations like Jordanians, Moroccans, and Yemenis. Conversely, other populations, like Christians and Druze, became genetically isolated in the new cultural environment. We reconstructed the genetic structure of the Levantines and found that a pre-Islamic expansion Levant was more genetically similar to Europeans than to Middle Easterners.
The Middle East was a funnel of human expansion out of Africa, a staging area for the Neolithic Agricultural Revolution, and the home to some of the earliest world empires. Post LGM expansions into the region and subsequent population movements created a striking genetic mosaic with distinct sex-based genetic differentiation. While prior studies have examined the mtDNA and Y-chromosome contrast in focal populations in the Middle East, none have undertaken a broad-spectrum survey including North and sub-Saharan Africa, Europe, and Middle Eastern populations. In this study 5,174 mtDNA and 4,658 Y-chromosome samples were investigated using PCA, MDS, mean-linkage clustering, AMOVA, and Fisher exact tests of FST's, RST's, and haplogroup frequencies. Geographic differentiation in affinities of Middle Eastern populations with Africa and Europe showed distinct contrasts between mtDNA and Y-chromosome data. Specifically, Lebanon's mtDNA shows a very strong association to Europe, while Yemen shows very strong affinity with Egypt and North and East Africa. Previous Y-chromosome results showed a Levantine coastal-inland contrast marked by J1 and J2, and a very strong North African component was evident throughout the Middle East. Neither of these patterns were observed in the mtDNA. While J2 has penetrated into Europe, the pattern of Y-chromosome diversity in Lebanon does not show the widespread affinities with Europe indicated by the mtDNA data. Lastly, while each population shows evidence of connections with expansions that now define the Middle East, Africa, and Europe, many of the populations in the Middle East show distinctive mtDNA and Y-haplogroup characteristics that indicate long standing settlement with relatively little impact from and movement into other populations.
The evolutionary history of variation in the human Rh blood group system, determined by variants in the RHD and RHCE genes, has long been an unresolved puzzle in human genetics. Prior to medical treatments and interventions developed in the last century, the D-positive children of D-negative women were at risk for hemolytic disease of the newborn, if the mother produced anti-D antibodies following sensitization to the blood of a previous D-positive child. Given the deleterious fitness consequences of this disease, the appreciable frequencies in European populations of the responsible RHD gene deletion variant (for example, 0.43 in our study) seem surprising. In this study, we used new molecular and genomic data generated from four HapMap population samples to test the idea that positive selection for an as-of-yet unknown fitness benefit of the RHD deletion may have offset the otherwise negative fitness effects of hemolytic disease of the newborn. We found no evidence that positive natural selection affected the frequency of the RHD deletion. Thus, the initial rise to intermediate frequency of the RHD deletion in European populations may simply be explained by genetic drift/ founder effect, or by an older or more complex sweep that we are insufficiently powered to detect. However, our simulations recapitulate previous findings that selection on the RHD deletion is frequency dependent, and weak or absent near 0.5. Therefore, once such a frequency was achieved, it could have been maintained by a relatively small amount of genetic drift. We unexpectedly observed evidence for positive selection on the C allele of RHCE in non-African populations (on chromosomes with intact copies of the RHD gene) in the form of an unusually high FST value and the high frequency of a single haplotype carrying the C allele. RhCE function is not well understood, but the C/c antigenic variant is clinically relevant and can result in hemolytic disease of the newborn, albeit much less commonly and severely than that related to the D-negative blood type. Therefore, the potential fitness benefits of the RHCE C allele are currently unknown but merit further exploration.
Blood group polymorphism; copy number variation; human evolution; balancing selection
Genome-wide genotypes and sequences are enriching our understanding of the past 50,000 years of human history and providing insights into earlier periods largely inaccessible to mitochondrial DNA and Y-chromosomal studies.
To see a world in a grain of sand ...
William Blake, Auguries of Innocence
Geneticists have long sought to identify the genetic changes that made us human, but pinpointing the functional-relevant changes has been challenging. Two papers in this issue suggest that partial duplication of SRGAP2, producing an incomplete protein that antagonizes the original, contributed to human brain evolution.