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1.  Y-Chromosome and mtDNA Genetics Reveal Significant Contrasts in Affinities of Modern Middle Eastern Populations with European and African Populations 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e54616.
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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0054616
PMCID: PMC3559847  PMID: 23382925
2.  Genome-Wide Association Study in a Lebanese Cohort Confirms PHACTR1 as a Major Determinant of Coronary Artery Stenosis 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e38663.
The manifestation of coronary artery disease (CAD) follows a well-choreographed series of events that includes damage of arterial endothelial cells and deposition of lipids in the sub-endothelial layers. Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of multiple populations with distinctive genetic and lifestyle backgrounds are a crucial step in understanding global CAD pathophysiology. In this study, we report a GWAS on the genetic basis of arterial stenosis as measured by cardiac catheterization in a Lebanese population. The locus of the phosphatase and actin regulator 1 gene (PHACTR1) showed association with coronary stenosis in a discovery experiment with genome wide data in 1,949 individuals (rs9349379, OR = 1.37, p = 1.57×10−5). The association was replicated in an additional 2,547 individuals (OR = 1.31, p = 8.85×10−6), leading to genome-wide significant association in a combined analysis (OR = 1.34, p = 8.02×10−10). Results from this GWAS support a central role of PHACTR1 in CAD susceptibility irrespective of lifestyle and ethnic divergences. This association provides a plausible component for understanding molecular mechanisms involved in the formation of stenosis in cardiac vessels and a potential drug target against CAD.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0038663
PMCID: PMC3380020  PMID: 22745674
3.  Afghanistan's Ethnic Groups Share a Y-Chromosomal Heritage Structured by Historical Events 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e34288.
Afghanistan has held a strategic position throughout history. It has been inhabited since the Paleolithic and later became a crossroad for expanding civilizations and empires. Afghanistan's location, history, and diverse ethnic groups present a unique opportunity to explore how nations and ethnic groups emerged, and how major cultural evolutions and technological developments in human history have influenced modern population structures. In this study we have analyzed, for the first time, the four major ethnic groups in present-day Afghanistan: Hazara, Pashtun, Tajik, and Uzbek, using 52 binary markers and 19 short tandem repeats on the non-recombinant segment of the Y-chromosome. A total of 204 Afghan samples were investigated along with more than 8,500 samples from surrounding populations important to Afghanistan's history through migrations and conquests, including Iranians, Greeks, Indians, Middle Easterners, East Europeans, and East Asians. Our results suggest that all current Afghans largely share a heritage derived from a common unstructured ancestral population that could have emerged during the Neolithic revolution and the formation of the first farming communities. Our results also indicate that inter-Afghan differentiation started during the Bronze Age, probably driven by the formation of the first civilizations in the region. Later migrations and invasions into the region have been assimilated differentially among the ethnic groups, increasing inter-population genetic differences, and giving the Afghans a unique genetic diversity in Central Asia.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0034288
PMCID: PMC3314501  PMID: 22470552
4.  Morphological versus molecular markers to describe variability in Juniperus excelsa subsp. excelsa (Cupressaceae) 
AoB Plants  2012;2012:pls013.
This is a large scale investigation of morphological diversity in Juniperus excelsa excelsa. It offers complementary results to those obtained for the same populations using molecular markers. These two approaches are complementary and should be considered together in order to obtain a comprehensive view of the variability of J. excelsa excelsa.
Background and aims
Juniperus excelsa M.-Bieb. is a major forest element in the mountains of the eastern part of Mediterranean and sub-Mediterranean regions. This study comprises the first morphological investigation covering a large part of the geographical range of J. excelsa and aims to verify the congruency between the morphological results and molecular results of a previous study.
Methodology
We studied 14 populations sampled from Greece, Cyprus, Ukraine, Turkey and Lebanon, 11 of which have previously been investigated using molecular markers. Three hundred and ninety-four individuals of J. excelsa were examined using nine biometric features characterizing cones, seeds and shoots, and eight derived ratios. Statistical analyses were conducted in order to evaluate the intra- and inter-population morphological variability.
Principal results
The level of intra-population variability observed did not show any geographical trends. The total variation mostly depended on the ratios of cone diameter/seed width and seed width/seed length. The discrimination analysis, the Ward agglomeration method and barrier analysis results showed a separation of the sampled populations into three main clusters. These results confirmed, in part, the geographical differentiation revealed by molecular markers with a lower level of differentiation and a less clear geographical pattern. The most differentiated populations using both markers corresponded to old, isolated populations in the high altitudes of Lebanon (>2000 m). Moreover, a separation of the northern Turkish population from the southern Turkish populations was observed using both markers.
Conclusions
Morphological variation together with genetic and biogeographic studies make an effective tool for detecting relict plant populations and also populations subjected to more intensive selection.
doi:10.1093/aobpla/pls013
PMCID: PMC3357054  PMID: 22822421
5.  Large Scale Association Analysis Identifies Three Susceptibility Loci for Coronary Artery Disease 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(12):e29427.
Genome wide association studies (GWAS) and their replications that have associated DNA variants with myocardial infarction (MI) and/or coronary artery disease (CAD) are predominantly based on populations of European or Eastern Asian descent. Replication of the most significantly associated polymorphisms in multiple populations with distinctive genetic backgrounds and lifestyles is crucial to the understanding of the pathophysiology of a multifactorial disease like CAD. We have used our Lebanese cohort to perform a replication study of nine previously identified CAD/MI susceptibility loci (LTA, CDKN2A-CDKN2B, CELSR2-PSRC1-SORT1, CXCL12, MTHFD1L, WDR12, PCSK9, SH2B3, and SLC22A3), and 88 genes in related phenotypes. The study was conducted on 2,002 patients with detailed demographic, clinical characteristics, and cardiac catheterization results. One marker, rs6922269, in MTHFD1L was significantly protective against MI (OR = 0.68, p = 0.0035), while the variant rs4977574 in CDKN2A-CDKN2B was significantly associated with MI (OR = 1.33, p = 0.0086). Associations were detected after adjustment for family history of CAD, gender, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, diabetes, and smoking. The parallel study of 88 previously published genes in related phenotypes encompassed 20,225 markers, three quarters of which with imputed genotypes The study was based on our genome-wide genotype data set, with imputation across the whole genome to HapMap II release 22 using HapMap CEU population as a reference. Analysis was conducted on both the genotyped and imputed variants in the 88 regions covering selected genes. This approach replicated HNRNPA3P1-CXCL12 association with CAD and identified new significant associations of CDKAL1, ST6GAL1, and PTPRD with CAD. Our study provides evidence for the importance of the multifactorial aspect of CAD/MI and describes genes predisposing to their etiology.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0029427
PMCID: PMC3246490  PMID: 22216278
6.  High genetic diversity with moderate differentiation in Juniperus excelsa from Lebanon and the eastern Mediterranean region 
AoB Plants  2011;2011:plr003.
Juniperus excelsa constitutes a precious woody species of high ecological value able to grow up to Mountain treeline around the Mediterranean. Nuclear microsatellites were used to shed light on genetic diversity and differentiation of different Mediterranean populations. This information is essential in planning conservation strategies and reforestation programs.
Background and aims
Juniperus excelsa is an important woody species in the high mountain ecosystems of the eastern Mediterranean Basin where it constitutes the only coniferous species found at the tree line. The genetic diversity within and among J. excelsa populations of the eastern Mediterranean Basin is studied in the light of their historical fragmentation.
Methodology
Nuclear microsatellites originally developed for Juniperus communis and J. przewalskii were tested on 320 individuals from 12 different populations originating from Lebanon, Turkey, Cyprus, Greece and the Ukraine.
Principal results
Among the 31 nuclear microsatellite primers tested, only three produced specific amplification products, with orthology confirmed by sequence analysis. They were then used for genetic diversity studies. The mean number of alleles and the expected heterozygosity means were Na=8.78 and He=0.76, respectively. The fixation index showed a significant deviation from Hardy–Weinberg equilibrium and an excess of homozygotes (FIS=0.27–0.56). A moderate level of genetic differentiation was observed among the populations (FST=0.075, P<0.001). The most differentiated populations corresponded to old vestigial stands found at the tree line (>2000 m) in Lebanon. These populations were differentiated from the other populations that are grouped into three sub-clusters.
Conclusions
High levels of genetic diversity were observed at species and population levels. The high level of differentiation in the high-mountain Lebanese populations reflects a long period of isolation or possibly a different origin. The admixture observed in other populations from Lebanon suggests a more recent separation from the Turkish–southeastern European populations.
doi:10.1093/aobpla/plr003
PMCID: PMC3064508  PMID: 22476474

Results 1-6 (6)