Genetic Chaos

Thursday, September 09, 2004

A recent shift from polygyny to monogamy in humans is suggested by the analysis of worldwide Y-chromosome diversity

Molecular genetic data contain information on the history of populations. Evidence of prehistoric demographic expansions has been detected in the mitochondrial diversity of most human populations and in a Y-chromosome STR analysis, but not in a previous study of 11 Y-chromosome SNPs in Europeans. In this paper, we show that mismatch distributions and tests of mutation/drift equilibrium based on up to 166 Y-chromosome SNPs, in 46 samples from all continents, also fail to support an increase of the male effective population size. Computer simulations show that the low nuclear versus mitochondrial mutation rates cannot explain these results. However, ascertainment bias, i.e., when only highly variable SNP sites are typed, may be concealing any Y SNPs evidence for a recent, but not an ancient, increase in male effective population sizes. The results of our SNP analyses can be reconciled with the expansion of male effective population sizes inferred from STR loci, and with mitochondrial evidence, by admitting that humans were essentially polygynous during much of their history. As a consequence, until recently only a few men may have contributed a large fraction of the Y-chromosome pool at every generation. The number of breeding males may have increased, and the variance of their reproductive success may have decreased, through a recent shift from polygyny to monogamy, which is supported by ethnological data and possibly accompanied the shift from mobile to sedentary communities.

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Estimating the strength of sexual selection from Y-chromosome and mitochondrial DNA diversity

We show that a sex difference in the opportunity for selection results in sex differences in the strength of random genetic drift and thus creates different patterns of genetic diversity for maternally and paternally inherited haploid genes. We derive the effective population size Ne for a male-limited or female-limited haploid gene in terms of I, the "opportunity for selection" or the variance in relative fitness. Because the variance in relative fitness of males can be an order of magnitude larger than that of females, the Ne is much smaller for males than it is for females. We derive both nonequilibrium and equilibrium expressions for F(ST) in terms of I and show how the portion of I owing to sexual selection, Imates, that is, the variation among males in mate numbers, is a simple function of the F's for cytoplasmic (female inherited) and Y-linked (male inherited) genes. Because multiple, transgenerational data are lacking to apply the nonequilibrium expression, we apply only the equilibrium model to published data on Y chromosome and mitochondrial sequence divergence in Homo sapiens to quantify the opportunity for sexual selection. The estimate suggests that sexual selection in humans represents a minimum of 54.8% of total selection, supporting Darwin's proposal that sexual selection has played a significant role in human evolution and the recent proposal regarding a shift from polygamy to monogamy in humans.

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Sexual selection favors female-biased sex ratios: the balance between the opposing forces of sex-ratio selection and sexual selection

In a verbal model, Trivers and Willard proposed that, whenever there is sexual selection among males, natural selection should favor mothers that produce sons when in good condition but daughters when in poor condition. The predictions of this model have been the subject of recent debate. We present an explicit population genetic model for the evolution of a maternal-effect gene that biases offspring sex ratio. We show that, like local mate competition, sexual selection favors female-biased sex ratios whenever maternal condition affects the reproductive competitive ability of sons. However, Fisherian sex-ratio selection, which favors a balanced sex ratio, is an opposing force. We show that the evolution of maternal sex-ratio biasing by these opposing selection forces requires a positive covariance across environments between the sex-ratio bias toward sons (b) and the mating success of sons (r). This covariance alone is not a sufficient condition for the evolution of maternal sex-ratio biasing; it must be sufficiently positive to outweigh the opposing sex-ratio selection. To identify the necessary and sufficient conditions, we partition total evolutionary change into three components: (1) maternal sex-ratio bias, (2) sexual selection on sons, and (3) sex-ratio selection. Because the magnitude of the first component asymmetrically affects the strength of the second, biasing broods toward females in a poor environment evolves faster than the same degree of bias toward males in a good environment. Consequently, female-biased sex ratios, rather than male-biased sex ratios, are more likely to evolve. We discuss our findings in the context of the primary sex-ratio biases observed in strongly sexually selected species and indicate how this perspective can assist the experimental study of sex ratio evolution.

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Genetic Evidence for Unequal Effective Population Sizes of Human Females and Males

The time to the most recent common ancestor (TMRCA) of the human mitochondria (mtDNA) is estimated to be older than that of the non-recombining portion of the Y chromosome (NRY). Surveys of variation in globally distributed humans typically result in mtDNA TMRCA values just under 200 thousand years (kya) while those for the NRY range between 46 and 110 kya. A favored hypothesis for this finding is that natural selection has acted on the NRY leading to a recent selective sweep. An alternate hypothesis is that sex-biased demographic processes are responsible. Here we re-examine the disparity between NRY and mtDNA TMRCAs using data collected from individual human populations — a sampling strategy that minimizes the confounding influence of population subdivision in global datasets. We survey variation at 782 bp of the mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase subunit 3 gene as well as at 26.5 kb of non-coding DNA from the NRY in a sample of 25 Khoisan, 24 Mongolians, and 24 Papua New Guineans. Data from both loci in all populations are best described by a model of constant population size, with the exception of Mongolian mtDNA which appears to be experiencing rapid population growth. Taking these demographic models into account, we estimate the TMRCAs for each locus in each population. A pattern that is remarkably consistent across all three populations is an approximately two-fold deeper coalescence for mtDNA than for the NRY. The oldest TMRCAs are observed for the Khoisan (73.6 kya for the NRY and 176.5 kya for mtDNA) while those in the non-African populations are consistently lower (averaging 47.7 kya for the NRY and 92.8 kya for mtDNA). Our data do not suggest that differential natural selection is the cause of this difference in TMRCAs. Rather, these results are most consistent with a higher female effective population size.

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Reduced Y-Chromosome, but Not Mitochondrial DNA, Diversity in Human Populations from West New Guinea

To investigate the paternal population history of New Guinea, 183 individuals from 11 regional populations of West New Guinea (WNG) and 131 individuals from Papua New Guinea (PNG) were analyzed at 26 binary markers and seven short-tandem-repeat loci from the nonrecombining part of the human Y chromosome and were compared with 14 populations of eastern and southeastern Asia, Polynesia, and Australia. Y-chromosomal diversity was low in WNG compared with PNG and with most other populations from Asia/Oceania; a single haplogroup (M-M4) accounts for 75% of WNG Y chromosomes, and many WNG populations have just one Y haplogroup. Four Y-chromosomal lineages (haplogroups M-M4, C-M208, C-M38, and K-M230) account for 94% of WNG Y chromosomes and 78% of all Melanesian Y chromosomes and were identified to have most likely arisen in Melanesia. Haplogroup C-M208, which in WNG is restricted to the Dani and Lani, two linguistically closely related populations from the central and western highlands of WNG, was identified as the major Polynesian Y-chromosome lineage. A network analysis of associated Y-chromosomal short-tandem-repeat haplotypes suggests two distinct population expansions involving C-M208—one in New Guinea and one in Polynesia. The observed low levels of Y-chromosome diversity in WNG contrast with high levels of mtDNA diversity reported for the same populations. This most likely reflects extreme patrilocality and/or biased male reproductive success (polygyny). Our data further provide evidence for primarily female-mediated gene flow within the highlands of New Guinea but primarily male-mediated gene flow between highland and lowland/coastal regions.

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