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.
Gorillas are humans’ closest living relatives after chimpanzees, and are of comparable importance for the study of human origins and evolution. Here we present the assembly and analysis of a genome sequence for the western lowland gorilla, and compare the whole genomes of all extant great ape genera. We propose a synthesis of genetic and fossil evidence consistent with placing the human-chimpanzee and human-chimpanzee-gorilla speciation events at approximately 6 and 10 million years ago (Mya). In 30% of the genome, gorilla is closer to human or chimpanzee than the latter are to each other; this is rarer around coding genes, indicating pervasive selection throughout great ape evolution, and has functional consequences in gene expression. A comparison of protein coding genes reveals approximately 500 genes showing accelerated evolution on each of the gorilla, human and chimpanzee lineages, and evidence for parallel acceleration, particularly of genes involved in hearing. We also compare the western and eastern gorilla species, estimating an average sequence divergence time 1.75 million years ago, but with evidence for more recent genetic exchange and a population bottleneck in the eastern species. The use of the genome sequence in these and future analyses will promote a deeper understanding of great ape biology and evolution.
Genome sequencing studies indicate that all humans carry many genetic variants predicted to cause loss of function (LoF) of protein-coding genes, suggesting unexpected redundancy in the human genome. Here we apply stringent filters to 2,951 putative LoF variants obtained from 185 human genomes to determine their true prevalence and properties. We estimate that human genomes typically contain ~100 genuine LoF variants with ~20 genes completely inactivated. We identify rare and likely deleterious LoF alleles, including 26 known and 21 predicted severe disease-causing variants, as well as common LoF variants in non-essential genes. We describe functional and evolutionary differences between LoF-tolerant and recessive disease genes, and a method for using these differences to prioritize candidate genes found in clinical sequencing studies.
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.
Austroasiatic; mtDNA; Y chromosome; autosomes; admixture
TSPY1 is a tandemly-repeated gene on the human Y chromosome forming an array of approximately 21–35 copies. The testicular expression pattern and the inferred function of the TSPY1 protein suggest possible involvement in spermatogenesis. However, data are scarce on TSPY1 copy number variation in different Y lineages and its role in spermatogenesis.
We sought to define: 1) the extent of TSPY1 copy number variation within and among Y chromosome haplogroups; and 2) the role of TSPY1 dosage in spermatogenic efficiency.
Materials and Methods
A total of 154 idiopathic infertile men and 130 normozoospermic controls from Central Italy were analyzed. We used a quantitative PCR assay to measure TSPY1 copy number and also defined Y haplogroups in all subjects.
We provide evidence that TSPY1 copy number shows substantial variation among Y haplogroups and thus that population stratification does represent a potential bias in case-control association studies. We also found: 1) a significant positive correlation between TSPY1 copy number and sperm count (P < 0.001); 2) a significant difference in mean TSPY1 copy number between patients and controls (28.4 ± 8.3 vs. 33.9 ± 10.7; P < 0.001); and 3) a 1.5-fold increased risk of abnormal sperm parameters in men with less than 33 copies (P < 0.001).
TSPY copy number variation significantly influences spermatogenic efficiency. Low TSPY1 copy number is a new risk factor for male infertility with potential clinical consequences.
We analysed 67 short tandem repeat polymorphisms from the non-recombining part of the Y-chromosome (Y-STRs), including 49 rarely-studied simple single-copy (ss)Y-STRs and 18 widely-used Y-STRs, in 590 males from 51 populations belonging to 8 worldwide regions (HGDP-CEPH panel). Although autosomal DNA profiling provided no evidence for close relationship, we found 18 Y-STR haplotypes (defined by 67 Y-STRs) that were shared by two to five men in 13 worldwide populations, revealing high and widespread levels of cryptic male relatedness. Maximal (95.9%) haplotype resolution was achieved with the best 25 out of 67 Y-STRs in the global dataset, and with the best 3-16 markers in regional datasets (89.6-100% resolution). From the 49 rarely-studied ssY-STRs, the 25 most informative markers were sufficient to reach the highest possible male lineage differentiation in the global (92.2% resolution), and 3-15 markers in the regional datasets (85.4-100%). Considerably lower haplotype resolutions were obtained with the three commonly-used Y-STR sets (Minimal Haplotype, PowerPlex Y®, and AmpFlSTR® Yfiler®). Six ssY-STRs (DYS481, DYS533, DYS549, DYS570, DYS576 and DYS643) were most informative to supplement the existing Y-STR kits for increasing haplotype resolution, or – together with additional ssY-STRs - as a new set for maximizing male lineage differentiation. Mutation rates of the 49 ssY-STRs were estimated from 403 meiotic transfers in deep-rooted pedigrees, and ranged from ~4.8×10−4 for 31 ssY-STRs with no mutations observed to 1.3×10−2 and 1.5×10−2 for DYS570 and DYS576, respectively, the latter representing the highest mutation rates reported for human Y-STRs so far. Our findings thus demonstrate that ssY-STRs are useful for maximizing global and regional resolution of male lineages, either as a new set, or when added to commonly-used Y-STR sets, and support their application to forensic, genealogical and anthropological studies.
Y-STR; microsatellites; Y-chromosome; haplotype resolution; lineage differentiation; HGDP-CEPH, mutation rates
A recently-published study has used next-gen sequencing technology to resequence two Y chromosomes separated by 13 generations and discovered four single-base differences in ~10 Mb DNA, suggesting that the Y chromosome euchromatin accumulates around one mutation per generation. Y-SNPs therefore now offer the best resolution of Y haplotypes and promise to distinguish almost every Y chromosome. This work illustrates the promise of current sequencing technology for forensically-relevant applications.
Next-gen sequencing; Y-SNP; Y-STR; Haplotype resolution; forensic applications
We have examined the male-specific phylogeography of the Levant and its surroundings by analyzing Y-chromosomal haplogroup distributions using 5,874 samples (885 new) from 23 countries. The diversity within some of these haplogroups was also examined. The Levantine populations showed clustering in SNP and STR analyses when considered against a broad Middle-East and North African background. However, we also found a coastal-inland, east-west pattern of diversity and frequency distribution in several haplogroups within the small region of the Levant. Since estimates of effective population size are similar in the two regions, this strong pattern is likely to have arisen mainly from differential migrations, with different lineages introduced from the east and west.
Y chromosome; Y-SNP; Y-STR; Levant
Cultural expansions, including of religions, frequently leave genetic traces of differentiation and in-migration. These expansions may be driven by complex doctrinal differentiation, together with major population migrations and gene flow. The aim of this study was to explore the genetic signature of the establishment of religious communities in a region where some of the most influential religions originated, using the Y chromosome as an informative male-lineage marker. A total of 3139 samples were analyzed, including 647 Lebanese and Iranian samples newly genotyped for 28 binary markers and 19 short tandem repeats on the non-recombinant segment of the Y chromosome. Genetic organization was identified by geography and religion across Lebanon in the context of surrounding populations important in the expansions of the major sects of Lebanon, including Italy, Turkey, the Balkans, Syria, and Iran by employing principal component analysis, multidimensional scaling, and AMOVA. Timing of population differentiations was estimated using BATWING, in comparison with dates of historical religious events to determine if these differentiations could be caused by religious conversion, or rather, whether religious conversion was facilitated within already differentiated populations. Our analysis shows that the great religions in Lebanon were adopted within already distinguishable communities. Once religious affiliations were established, subsequent genetic signatures of the older differentiations were reinforced. Post-establishment differentiations are most plausibly explained by migrations of peoples seeking refuge to avoid the turmoil of major historical events.
Y-chromosome; population genetics; human migrations; cultural diffusion; religion; Maronites
Numerous genome-wide scans conducted by genotyping previously ascertained single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) have provided candidate signatures for positive selection in various regions of the human genome, including in genes involved in pigmentation traits. However, it is unclear how well the signatures discovered by such haplotype-based test statistics can be reproduced in tests based on full resequencing data. Four genes (oculocutaneous albinism II (OCA2), tyrosinase-related protein 1 (TYRP1), dopachrome tautomerase (DCT), and KIT ligand (KITLG)) implicated in human skin-color variation, have shown evidence for positive selection in Europeans and East Asians in previous SNP-scan data. In the current study, we resequenced 4.7 to 6.7 kb of DNA from each of these genes in Africans, Europeans, East Asians, and South Asians.
Applying all commonly used neutrality-test statistics for allele frequency distribution to the newly generated sequence data provided conflicting results regarding evidence for positive selection. Previous haplotype-based findings could not be clearly confirmed. Although some tests were marginally significant for some populations and genes, none of them were significant after multiple-testing correction. Combined P values for each gene-population pair did not improve these results. Application of Approximate Bayesian Computation Markov chain Monte Carlo based to these sequence data using a simple forward simulator revealed broad posterior distributions of the selective parameters for all four genes, providing no support for positive selection. However, when we applied this approach to published sequence data on SLC45A2, another human pigmentation candidate gene, we could readily confirm evidence for positive selection, as previously detected with sequence-based and some haplotype-based tests.
Overall, our data indicate that even genes that are strong biological candidates for positive selection and show reproducible signatures of positive selection in SNP scans do not always show the same replicability of selection signals in other tests, which should be considered in future studies on detecting positive selection in genetic data.
Autism is a common, severe and highly heritable neurodevelopmental disorder in children, affecting up to 100 children per 10,000. The MET gene has been regarded as a promising candidate gene for this disorder because it is located within a replicated linkage interval, is involved in pathways affecting the development of the cerebral cortex and cerebellum in ways relevant to autism patients, and has shown significant association signals in previous studies.
Here, we present new ASD patient and control samples from Heilongjiang, China and use them in a case-control and family-based replication study of two MET variants. One SNP, rs38845, was successfully replicated in a case-control association study, but failed to replicate in a family-based study, possibly due to small sample size. The other SNP, rs1858830, failed to replicate in both case-control and family-based studies.
This is the first attempt to replicate associations in Chinese autism samples, and our result provides evidence that MET variants may be relevant to autism susceptibility in the Chinese Han population.
We have investigated whether regions of the genome showing signs of positive selection in scans based on haplotype structure also show evidence of positive selection when sequence-based tests are applied, whether the target of selection can be localized more precisely, and whether such extra evidence can lead to increased biological insights. We used two tools: simulations under neutrality or selection, and experimental investigation of two regions identified by the HapMap2 project as putatively selected in human populations. Simulations suggested that neutral and selected regions should be readily distinguished and that it should be possible to localize the selected variant to within 40 kb at least half of the time. Re-sequencing of two ~300 kb regions (chr4:158Mb and chr10:22Mb) lacking known targets of selection in HapMap CHB individuals provided strong evidence for positive selection within each and suggested the micro-RNA gene hsa-miR-548c as the best candidate target in one region, and changes in regulation of the sperm protein gene SPAG6 in the other.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00439-011-1111-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Exome sequencing, which allows the global analysis of protein coding sequences in the human genome, has become an effective and affordable approach to detecting causative genetic mutations in diseases. Currently, there are several commercial human exome capture platforms; however, the relative performances of these have not been characterized sufficiently to know which is best for a particular study.
We comprehensively compared three platforms: NimbleGen's Sequence Capture Array and SeqCap EZ, and Agilent's SureSelect. We assessed their performance in a variety of ways, including number of genes covered and capture efficacy. Differences that may impact on the choice of platform were that Agilent SureSelect covered approximately 1,100 more genes, while NimbleGen provided better flanking sequence capture. Although all three platforms achieved similar capture specificity of targeted regions, the NimbleGen platforms showed better uniformity of coverage and greater genotype sensitivity at 30- to 100-fold sequencing depth. All three platforms showed similar power in exome SNP calling, including medically relevant SNPs. Compared with genotyping and whole-genome sequencing data, the three platforms achieved a similar accuracy of genotype assignment and SNP detection. Importantly, all three platforms showed similar levels of reproducibility, GC bias and reference allele bias.
We demonstrate key differences between the three platforms, particularly advantages of solutions over array capture and the importance of a large gene target set.
Rare coding variants constitute an important class of human genetic variation, but are underrepresented in current databases that are based on small population samples. Recent studies show that variants altering amino acid sequence and protein function are enriched at low variant allele frequency, 2 to 5%, but because of insufficient sample size it is not clear if the same trend holds for rare variants below 1% allele frequency.
The 1000 Genomes Exon Pilot Project has collected deep-coverage exon-capture data in roughly 1,000 human genes, for nearly 700 samples. Although medical whole-exome projects are currently afoot, this is still the deepest reported sampling of a large number of human genes with next-generation technologies. According to the goals of the 1000 Genomes Project, we created effective informatics pipelines to process and analyze the data, and discovered 12,758 exonic SNPs, 70% of them novel, and 74% below 1% allele frequency in the seven population samples we examined. Our analysis confirms that coding variants below 1% allele frequency show increased population-specificity and are enriched for functional variants.
This study represents a large step toward detecting and interpreting low frequency coding variation, clearly lays out technical steps for effective analysis of DNA capture data, and articulates functional and population properties of this important class of genetic variation.
We have surveyed 15 high-altitude adaptation candidate genes for signals of positive selection in North Caucasian highlanders using targeted re-sequencing. A total of 49 unrelated Daghestani from three ethnic groups (Avars, Kubachians, and Laks) living in ancient villages located at around 2,000 m above sea level were chosen as the study population. Caucasian (Adygei living at sea level, N = 20) and CEU (CEPH Utah residents with ancestry from northern and western Europe; N = 20) were used as controls. Candidate genes were compared with 20 putatively neutral control regions resequenced in the same individuals. The regions of interest were amplified by long-PCR, pooled according to individual, indexed by adding an eight-nucleotide tag, and sequenced using the Illumina GAII platform. 1,066 SNPs were called using false discovery and false negative thresholds of ~6%. The neutral regions provided an empirical null distribution to compare with the candidate genes for signals of selection. Two genes stood out. In Laks, a non-synonymous variant within HIF1A already known to be associated with improvement in oxygen metabolism was rediscovered, and in Kubachians a cluster of 13 SNPs located in a conserved intronic region within EGLN1 showing high population differentiation was found. These variants illustrate both the common pathways of adaptation to high altitude in different populations and features specific to the Daghestani populations, showing how even a mildly hypoxic environment can lead to genetic adaptation.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00439-011-1084-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
The number and volume of cells in the blood affect a wide range of disorders including cancer and cardiovascular, metabolic, infectious and immune conditions. We consider here the genetic variation in eight clinically relevant hematological parameters, including hemoglobin levels, red and white blood cell counts and platelet counts and volume. We describe common variants within 22 genetic loci reproducibly associated with these hematological parameters in 13,943 samples from six European population-based studies, including 6 associated with red blood cell parameters, 15 associated with platelet parameters and 1 associated with total white blood cell count. We further identified a long-range haplotype at 12q24 associated with coronary artery disease in 9,479 cases and 10,527 controls. We show that this haplotype demonstrates extensive disease pleiotropy, as it contains known risk loci for type 1 diabetes, hypertension and celiac disease and has been spread by a selective sweep specific to European and geographically nearby populations.
Large-scale systematic resequencing has been proposed as the key future strategy for the discovery of rare, disease-causing sequence variants across the spectrum of human complex disease. We have sequenced the coding exons of the X chromosome in 208 families with X-linked mental retardation (XLMR), the largest direct screen for constitutional disease-causing mutations thus far reported. The screen has discovered nine genes implicated in XLMR, including SYP, ZNF711 and CASK reported here, confirming the power of this strategy. The study has, however, also highlighted issues confronting whole-genome sequencing screens, including the observation that loss of function of 1% or more of X-chromosome genes is compatible with apparently normal existence.
Bedouin are traditionally nomadic inhabitants of the Persian Gulf who claim descent from two male lineages: Adnani and Qahtani. We have investigated whether or not this tradition is reflected in the current genetic structure of a sample of 153 Bedouin males from six Kuwaiti tribes, including three tribes from each traditional lineage. Volunteers were genotyped using a panel of autosomal and Y-STRs, and Y-SNPs. The samples clustered with their geographical neighbours in both the autosomal and Y-chromosomal analyses, and showed strong evidence of genetic isolation and drift. Whilst there was no evidence of segregation into the two male lineages, other aspects of genetic structure were in accord with tradition.
Bedouin; Adnani and Qahtani lineages; Y chromosome; autosomal STRs
We have investigated human male demographic history using 590 males from 51 populations in the Human Genome Diversity Project - Centre d’Étude du Polymorphisme Humain worldwide panel, typed with 37 Y-chromosomal Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms and 65 Y-chromosomal Short Tandem Repeats and analyzed with the program Bayesian Analysis of Trees With Internal Node Generation. The general patterns we observe show a gradient from the oldest population time to the most recent common ancestors (TMRCAs) and expansion times together with the largest effective population sizes in Africa, to the youngest times and smallest effective population sizes in the Americas. These parameters are significantly negatively correlated with distance from East Africa, and the patterns are consistent with most other studies of human variation and history. In contrast, growth rate showed a weaker correlation in the opposite direction. Y-lineage diversity and TMRCA also decrease with distance from East Africa, supporting a model of expansion with serial founder events starting from this source. A number of individual populations diverge from these general patterns, including previously documented examples such as recent expansions of the Yoruba in Africa, Basques in Europe, and Yakut in Northern Asia. However, some unexpected demographic histories were also found, including low growth rates in the Hazara and Kalash from Pakistan and recent expansion of the Mozabites in North Africa.
Y-STR; Y-SNP; HGDP–CEPH; male demographic history; BATWING; serial founder model
Understanding the key process of human mutation is important for many aspects of medical genetics and human evolution. In the past, estimates of mutation rates have generally been inferred from phenotypic observations or comparisons of homologous sequences among closely related species [1–3]. Here, we apply new sequencing technology to measure directly one mutation rate, that of base substitutions on the human Y chromosome. The Y chromosomes of two individuals separated by 13 generations were flow sorted and sequenced by Illumina (Solexa) paired-end sequencing to an average depth of 11× or 20×, respectively . Candidate mutations were further examined by capillary sequencing in cell-line and blood DNA from the donors and additional family members. Twelve mutations were confirmed in ∼10.15 Mb; eight of these had occurred in vitro and four in vivo. The latter could be placed in different positions on the pedigree and led to a mutation-rate measurement of 3.0 × 10−8 mutations/nucleotide/generation (95% CI: 8.9 × 10−9–7.0 × 10−8), consistent with estimates of 2.3 × 10−8–6.3 × 10−8 mutations/nucleotide/generation for the same Y-chromosomal region from published human-chimpanzee comparisons  depending on the generation and split times assumed.