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1.  The African Genome Variation Project shapes medical genetics in Africa 
Nature  2014;517(7534):327-332.
Given the importance of Africa to studies of human origins and disease susceptibility, detailed characterisation of African genetic diversity is needed. The African Genome Variation Project (AGVP) provides a resource to help design, implement and interpret genomic studies in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and worldwide. The AGVP represents dense genotypes from 1,481 and whole genome sequences (WGS) from 320 individuals across SSA. Using this resource, we find novel evidence of complex, regionally distinct hunter-gatherer and Eurasian admixture across SSA. We identify new loci under selection, including for malaria and hypertension. We show that modern imputation panels can identify association signals at highly differentiated loci across populations in SSA. Using WGS, we show further improvement in imputation accuracy supporting efforts for large-scale sequencing of diverse African haplotypes. Finally, we present an efficient genotype array design capturing common genetic variation in Africa, showing for the first time that such designs are feasible.
PMCID: PMC4297536  PMID: 25470054
2.  Structural variation on the human Y chromosome from population-scale resequencing 
Croatian Medical Journal  2015;56(3):194-207.
To investigate the information about Y-structural variants (SVs) in the general population that could be obtained by low-coverage whole-genome sequencing.
We investigated SVs on the male-specific portion of the Y chromosome in the 70 individuals from Africa, Europe, or East Asia sequenced as part of the 1000 Genomes Pilot project, using data from this project and from additional studies on the same samples. We applied a combination of read-depth and read-pair methods to discover candidate Y-SVs, followed by validation using information from the literature, independent sequence and single nucleotide polymorphism-chip data sets, and polymerase chain reaction experiments.
We validated 19 Y-SVs, 2 of which were novel. Non-reference allele counts ranged from 1 to 64. The regions richest in variation were the heterochromatic segments near the centromere or the DYZ19 locus, followed by the ampliconic regions, but some Y-SVs were also present in the X-transposed and X-degenerate regions. In all, 5 of the 27 protein-coding gene families on the Y chromosome varied in copy number.
We confirmed that Y-SVs were readily detected from low-coverage sequence data and were abundant on the chromosome. We also reported both common and rare Y-SVs that are novel.
PMCID: PMC4500966  PMID: 26088844
3.  Copy number variation in the human Y chromosome in the UK population 
Human Genetics  2015;134(7):789-800.
We have assessed copy number variation (CNV) in the male-specific part of the human Y chromosome discovered by array comparative genomic hybridization (array-CGH) in 411 apparently healthy UK males, and validated the findings using SNP genotype intensity data available for 149 of them. After manual curation taking account of the complex duplicated structure of Y-chromosomal sequences, we discovered 22 curated CNV events considered validated or likely, mean 0.93 (range 0–4) per individual. 16 of these were novel. Curated CNV events ranged in size from <1 kb to >3 Mb, and in frequency from 1/411 to 107/411. Of the 24 protein-coding genes or gene families tested, nine showed CNV. These included a large duplication encompassing the AMELY and TBL1Y genes that probably has no phenotypic effect, partial deletions of the TSPY cluster and AZFc region that may influence spermatogenesis, and other variants with unknown functional implications, including abundant variation in the number of RBMY genes and/or pseudogenes, and a novel complex duplication of two segments overlapping the AZFa region and including the 3′ end of the UTY gene.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00439-015-1562-5) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4460274  PMID: 25957587
4.  Genetic characterisation of Greek population isolates reveals strong genetic drift at missense and trait-associated variants 
Nature communications  2014;5:5345.
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) on 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 amongst the variants that have drifted up in frequency by >5 fold. 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.
PMCID: PMC4242463  PMID: 25373335
5.  Insights into the origin of rare haplogroup C3* Y chromosomes in South America from high-density autosomal SNP genotyping 
•Revisited the previous discovery of a rare Y haplogroup in two Ecuador populations.•Hypotheses for the origin of the haplogroup tested with autosomal SNP genotype data.•We favoured one of the three hypotheses, ‘founder plus drift’.
The colonization of Americas is thought to have occurred 15–20 thousand years ago (Kya), with little or no subsequent migration into South America until the European expansions beginning 0.5 Kya. Recently, however, haplogroup C3* Y chromosomes were discovered in two nearby Native American populations from Ecuador. Since this haplogroup is otherwise nearly absent from the Americas but is common in East Asia, and an archaeological link between Ecuador and Japan is known from 6 Kya, an additional migration 6 Kya was suggested. Here, we have generated high-density autosomal SNP genotypes from the Ecuadorian populations and compared them with genotypes from East Asia and elsewhere to evaluate three hypotheses: a recent migration from Japan, a single pulse of migration from Japan 6 Kya, and no migration after the First Americans. First, using forward-time simulations and an appropriate demographic model, we investigated our power to detect both ancient and recent gene flow at different levels. Second, we analyzed 207,321 single nucleotide polymorphisms from 16 Ecuadorian individuals, comparing them with populations from the HGDP panel using descriptive and formal tests for admixture. Our simulations revealed good power to detect recent admixture, and that ≥5% admixture 6 Kya ago could be detected. However, in the experimental data we saw no evidence of gene flow from Japan to Ecuador. In summary, we can exclude recent migration and probably admixture 6 Kya as the source of the C3* Y chromosomes in Ecuador, and thus suggest that they represent a rare founding lineage lost by drift elsewhere.
PMCID: PMC4312352  PMID: 25435155
Past human migrations; Ecuador; Admixture; Simulations
6.  Genetic characterization of Greek population isolates reveals strong genetic drift at missense and trait-associated variants 
Nature Communications  2014;5:5345.
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.
PMCID: PMC4242463  PMID: 25373335
7.  Association of a germline copy number polymorphism of APOBEC3A and APOBEC3B with burden of putative APOBEC-dependent mutations in breast cancer 
Nature genetics  2014;46(5):487-491.
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.
PMCID: PMC4137149  PMID: 24728294
8.  Geographic Population Structure analysis of worldwide human populations infers their biogeographical origins 
Nature communications  2014;5:3513.
The search for a method that utilizes biological information to predict humans’ place of origin has occupied scientists for millennia. Over the past four decades, scientists have employed genetic data in an effort to achieve this goal but with limited success. While biogeographical algorithms using next-generation sequencing data have achieved an accuracy of 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.
PMCID: PMC4007635  PMID: 24781250
9.  A global analysis of Y-chromosomal haplotype diversity for 23 STR loci 
Purps, Josephine | Siegert, Sabine | Willuweit, Sascha | Nagy, Marion | Alves, Cíntia | Salazar, Renato | Angustia, Sheila M.T. | Santos, Lorna H. | Anslinger, Katja | Bayer, Birgit | Ayub, Qasim | Wei, Wei | Xue, Yali | Tyler-Smith, Chris | Bafalluy, Miriam Baeta | Martínez-Jarreta, Begoña | Egyed, Balazs | Balitzki, Beate | Tschumi, Sibylle | Ballard, David | Court, Denise Syndercombe | Barrantes, Xinia | Bäßler, Gerhard | Wiest, Tina | Berger, Burkhard | Niederstätter, Harald | Parson, Walther | Davis, Carey | Budowle, Bruce | Burri, Helen | Borer, Urs | Koller, Christoph | Carvalho, Elizeu F. | Domingues, Patricia M. | Chamoun, Wafaa Takash | Coble, Michael D. | Hill, Carolyn R. | Corach, Daniel | Caputo, Mariela | D’Amato, Maria E. | Davison, Sean | Decorte, Ronny | Larmuseau, Maarten H.D. | Ottoni, Claudio | Rickards, Olga | Lu, Di | Jiang, Chengtao | Dobosz, Tadeusz | Jonkisz, Anna | Frank, William E. | Furac, Ivana | Gehrig, Christian | Castella, Vincent | Grskovic, Branka | Haas, Cordula | Wobst, Jana | Hadzic, Gavrilo | Drobnic, Katja | Honda, Katsuya | Hou, Yiping | Zhou, Di | Li, Yan | Hu, Shengping | Chen, Shenglan | Immel, Uta-Dorothee | Lessig, Rüdiger | Jakovski, Zlatko | Ilievska, Tanja | Klann, Anja E. | García, Cristina Cano | de Knijff, Peter | Kraaijenbrink, Thirsa | Kondili, Aikaterini | Miniati, Penelope | Vouropoulou, Maria | Kovacevic, Lejla | Marjanovic, Damir | Lindner, Iris | Mansour, Issam | Al-Azem, Mouayyad | Andari, Ansar El | Marino, Miguel | Furfuro, Sandra | Locarno, Laura | Martín, Pablo | Luque, Gracia M. | Alonso, Antonio | Miranda, Luís Souto | Moreira, Helena | Mizuno, Natsuko | Iwashima, Yasuki | Neto, Rodrigo S. Moura | Nogueira, Tatiana L.S. | Silva, Rosane | Nastainczyk-Wulf, Marina | Edelmann, Jeanett | Kohl, Michael | Nie, Shengjie | Wang, Xianping | Cheng, Baowen | Núñez, Carolina | Pancorbo, Marian Martínez de | Olofsson, Jill K. | Morling, Niels | Onofri, Valerio | Tagliabracci, Adriano | Pamjav, Horolma | Volgyi, Antonia | Barany, Gusztav | Pawlowski, Ryszard | Maciejewska, Agnieszka | Pelotti, Susi | Pepinski, Witold | Abreu-Glowacka, Monica | Phillips, Christopher | Cárdenas, Jorge | Rey-Gonzalez, Danel | Salas, Antonio | Brisighelli, Francesca | Capelli, Cristian | Toscanini, Ulises | Piccinini, Andrea | Piglionica, Marilidia | Baldassarra, Stefania L. | Ploski, Rafal | Konarzewska, Magdalena | Jastrzebska, Emila | Robino, Carlo | Sajantila, Antti | Palo, Jukka U. | Guevara, Evelyn | Salvador, Jazelyn | Ungria, Maria Corazon De | Rodriguez, Jae Joseph Russell | Schmidt, Ulrike | Schlauderer, Nicola | Saukko, Pekka | Schneider, Peter M. | Sirker, Miriam | Shin, Kyoung-Jin | Oh, Yu Na | Skitsa, Iulia | Ampati, Alexandra | Smith, Tobi-Gail | Calvit, Lina Solis de | Stenzl, Vlastimil | Capal, Thomas | Tillmar, Andreas | Nilsson, Helena | Turrina, Stefania | De Leo, Domenico | Verzeletti, Andrea | Cortellini, Venusia | Wetton, Jon H. | Gwynne, Gareth M. | Jobling, Mark A. | Whittle, Martin R. | Sumita, Denilce R. | Wolańska-Nowak, Paulina | Yong, Rita Y.Y. | Krawczak, Michael | Nothnagel, Michael | Roewer, Lutz
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.
PMCID: PMC4127773  PMID: 24854874
Gene diversity; Discriminatory power; AMOVA; Population structure; Database
10.  Human genomic regions with exceptionally high levels of population differentiation identified from 911 whole-genome sequences 
Genome Biology  2014;15(6):R88.
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.
PMCID: PMC4197830  PMID: 24980144
11.  Genomic triumph meets clinical reality 
Genome Biology  2013;14(5):307.
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.
PMCID: PMC4054008  PMID: 23714135
12.  A Linguistically Informed Autosomal STR Survey of Human Populations Residing in the Greater Himalayan Region 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e91534.
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.
PMCID: PMC3948894  PMID: 24614536
13.  Integrative Annotation of Variants from 1092 Humans: Application to Cancer Genomics 
Science (New York, N.Y.)  2013;342(6154):1235587.
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.
PMCID: PMC3947637  PMID: 24092746
14.  A comparison of Y-chromosomal lineage dating using either resequencing or Y-SNP plus Y-STR genotyping☆ 
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.
PMCID: PMC3820021  PMID: 23768990
Human Y chromosome; Male history; Time estimation; Networks; BATWING
15.  Modeling the contrasting Neolithic male lineage expansions in Europe and Africa 
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.
PMCID: PMC4177147  PMID: 24262073
Human Y chromosome; Neolithic transition; Population expansion; Demographic modeling; Coalescent simulations; Haplogroup; R1b; E1b1a
16.  A Genome-Wide Survey of Genetic Variation in Gorillas Using Reduced Representation Sequencing 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e65066.
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.
PMCID: PMC3672199  PMID: 23750230
18.  The GenoChip: A New Tool for Genetic Anthropology 
Genome Biology and Evolution  2013;5(5):1021-1031.
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.
PMCID: PMC3673633  PMID: 23666864
genetic anthropology; GenoChip; Genographic Project; population genetics; AimsFinder; haplogroups
19.  A British approach to sampling 
PMCID: PMC3260911  PMID: 21829226
20.  Evolutionary genetics of the human Rh blood group system 
Human genetics  2012;131(7):1205-1216.
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.
PMCID: PMC3378649  PMID: 22367406
Blood group polymorphism; copy number variation; human evolution; balancing selection
21.  A world in a grain of sand: human history from genetic data 
Genome Biology  2011;12(11):234.
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
PMCID: PMC3334592  PMID: 22104725
22.  Sibling rivalry among paralogs promotes evolution of the human brain 
Cell  2012;149(4):737-739.
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.
PMCID: PMC3477634  PMID: 22579279
23.  Insights into hominid evolution from the gorilla genome sequence 
Nature  2012;483(7388):169-175.
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.
PMCID: PMC3303130  PMID: 22398555
24.  A systematic survey of loss-of-function variants in human protein-coding genes 
Science (New York, N.Y.)  2012;335(6070):823-828.
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.
PMCID: PMC3299548  PMID: 22344438
25.  A British approach to sampling 
PMCID: PMC3260911  PMID: 21829226

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