Genetic Chaos

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Out of Africa and Back Again: Nested Cladistic Analysis of Human Y Chromosome Variation

We surveyed nine diallelic polymorphic sites on the Y chromosomes of 1,544 individuals from Africa, Asia, Europe, Oceania, and the New World. Phylogenetic analyses of these nine sites resulted in a tree for 10 distinct Y haplotypes with a coalescence time of ~150,000 years. The 10 haplotypes were unevenly distributed among human populations: 5 were restricted to a particular continent, 2 were shared between Africa and Europe, 1 was present only in the Old World, and 2 were found in all geographic regions surveyed. The ancestral haplotype was limited to African populations. Random permutation procedures revealed statistically significant patterns of geographical structuring of this paternal genetic variation. The results of a nested cladistic analysis indicated that these geographical associations arose through a combination of processes, including restricted, recurrent gene flow (isolation by distance) and range expansions. We inferred that one of the oldest events in the nested cladistic analysis was a range expansion out of Africa which resulted in the complete replacement of Y chromosomes throughout the Old World, a finding consistent with many versions of the Out of Africa Replacement Model. A second and more recent range expansion brought Asian Y chromosomes back to Africa without replacing the indigenous African male gene pool. Thus, the previously observed high levels of Y chromosomal genetic diversity in Africa may be due in part to bidirectional population movements. Finally, a comparison of our results with those from nested cladistic analyses of human mtDNA and b-globin data revealed different patterns of inferences for males and females concerning the relative roles of population history (range expansions) and population structure (recurrent gene flow), thereby adding a new sex-specific component to models of human evolution.

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Out of Africa again and again

The publication of a haplotype tree of human mitochondrial DNA variation in 1987 provoked a controversy about the details of recent human evolution that continues to this day. Now many haplotype trees are available, and new analytical techniques exist for testing hypotheses about recent evolutionary history using haplotype trees. Here I present formal statistical analysis of human haplotype trees for mitochondrial DNA, Y-chromosomal DNA, two X-linked regions and six autosomal regions. A coherent picture of recent human evolution emerges with two major themes. First is the dominant role that Africa has played in shaping the modern human gene pool through at least two–not one–major expansions after the original range extension of Homo erectus out of Africa. Second is the ubiquity of genetic interchange between human populations, both in terms of recurrent gene flow constrained by geographical distance and of major population expansion events resulting in interbreeding, not replacement.

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Major genomic mitochondrial lineages delineate early human expansions

Background: The phylogeographic distribution of human mitochondrial DNA variations allows a genetic approach to the study of modern Homo sapiens dispersals throughout the world from a female perspective. As a new contribution to this study we have phylogenetically analysed complete mitochondrial DNA(mtDNA) sequences from 42 human lineages, representing major clades with known geographic assignation.

Results: We show the relative relationships among the 42 lineages and present more accurate temporal calibrations than have been previously possible to give new perspectives as how modern humans spread in the Old World.

Conclusions: The first detectable expansion occurred around 59,000–69,000 years ago from Africa, independently colonizing western Asia and India and, following this southern route, swiftly reaching east Asia. Within Africa, this expansion did not replace but mixed with older lineages detectable today only in Africa. Around 39,000–52,000 years ago, the western Asian branch spread radially, bringing Caucasians to North Africa and Europe, also reaching India, and expanding to north and east Asia. More recent migrations have entangled but not completely erased these primitive footprints of modern human expansions.

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Archaic Lineages in the History of Modern Humans

An important question in the ongoing debate on the origin of Homo sapiens is whether modern human populations issued from a single lineage or whether several, independently evolving lineages contributed to their genetic makeup. We analyzed haplotypes composed of 35 polymorphisms from a segment of the dystrophin gene. We find that the bulk of a worldwide sample of 868 chromosomes represents haplotypes shared by different continental groups. The remaining chromosomes carry haplotypes specific for the continents or for local populations. The haplotypes specific for non-Africans can be derived from the most frequent ones through simple recombination or a mutation. In contrast, chromosomes specific for sub-Saharan Africans represent a distinct group, as shown by principal component analysis, maximum likelihood tree, structural comparison, and summary statistics. We propose that African chromosomes descend from at least two lineages that have been evolving separately for a period of time. One of them underwent range expansion colonizing different continents, including Africa, where it mixed with another, local lineage represented today by a large fraction of African-specific haplotypes. Genetic admixture involving archaic lineages appears therefore to have occurred within Africa rather than outside this continent, explaining greater diversity of sub-Saharan populations observed in a variety of genetic systems.

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Testing Multiregionality of Modern Human Origins

In order to examine the possibility of multiple founding populations of anatomically modern Homo sapiens, we collected DNA sequence data from 10 X-chromosomal regions, 5 autosomal regions, and 1 Y-chromosomal region, in addition to mitochondrial DNA. Except for five regions which are genealogically uninformative and two other regions for which chimpanzee orthologs are not available, the ancestral sequence and population for each of the remaining regions were successfully inferred. Of these 10 ancestral sequences, 9 occurred in Africa and only 1 occurred in Asia during the Pleistocene. Computer simulation was carried out to quantify the multiregional hypothesis based solely on the premise that there was more than one founding population in the Pleistocene. Allowing the breeding size to vary among the founding populations, the hypothesis may account for the observed African ancestry in 90% of the genomic regions. However, it is required that the founding population in Africa was much larger than that outside Africa. Likelihood estimates of the breeding sizes in the founding populations were more than 9,000 in Africa and less than 1,000 in outside of Africa, although these estimates can be much less biased at the 1% significance level. If the number of African ancestral sequences further increases as more data accumulate in other genomic regions, the conclusion of a single founding population of modern H. sapiens is inevitable.

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