Genetic Chaos

Friday, September 01, 2006

Genetic Isolates in East Asia: A Study of Linkage Disequilibrium in the X Chromosome

The background linkage disequilibrium (LD) in genetic isolates is of great interest in human genetics. Although many empirical studies have evaluated the background LD in European isolates, such as the Finnish and Sardinians, few data from other regions, such as Asia, have been reported. To evaluate the extent of background LD in East Asian genetic isolates, we analyzed the X chromosome in the Japanese population and in four Mongolian populations (Khalkh, Khoton, Uriankhai, and Zakhchin), the demographic histories of which are quite different from one another. Fisher’s exact test revealed that the Japanese and Khalkh, which are the expanded populations, had the same or a relatively higher level of LD than did the Finnish, European American, and Sardinian populations. In contrast, the Khoton, Uriankhai, and Zakhchin populations, which have kept their population size constant, had a higher background LD. These results were consistent with previous genetic anthropological studies in European isolates and indicate that the Japanese and Khalkh populations could be utilized in the fine mapping of both complex and monogenic diseases, whereas the Khoton, Uriankhai, and Zakhchin populations could play an important role in the initial mapping of complex disease genes.

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Male Demography in East Asia: A North–South Contrast in Human Population Expansion Times

The human population has increased greatly in size in the last 100,000 years, but the initial stimuli to growth, the times when expansion started, and their variation between different parts of the world are poorly understood. We have investigated male demography in East Asia, applying a Bayesian full-likelihood analysis to data from 988 men representing 27 populations from China, Mongolia, Korea, and Japan typed with 45 binary and 16 STR markers from the Y chromosome. According to our analysis, the northern populations examined all started to expand in number between 34 (18-68) and 22 (12-39) thousand years ago (KYA), before the last glacial maximum at 21-18 KYA, while the southern populations all started to expand between 18 (6-47) and 12 (1-45) KYA, but then grew faster. We suggest that the northern populations expanded earlier because they could exploit the abundant megafauna of the "Mammoth Steppe," while the southern populations could increase in number only when a warmer and more stable climate led to more plentiful plant resources such as tubers.

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Mitochondrial DNA Variation and the Origins of the Aleuts

The mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) variation in 179 Aleuts from
five different islands (Atka, Unalaska, Umnak, St. Paul, and St. George) and Anchorage was analyzed to better understand the origins of Aleuts and their role in the peopling of the Americas. Mitochondrial DNA samples were characterized using polymerase chain reaction amplification, restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis, and direct sequencing of the first hypervariable segment (HVS-I) of the control region. This study showed that Aleut mtDNAs belonged to two of the four haplogroups (A and D) common among Native Americans. Haplogroup D occurred at a very high frequency in Aleuts, and this, along with their unique HVS-I sequences, distinguished them from Eskimos, Athapaskan Indians, and other northern Amerindian populations. While sharing several control region sequences (CIR11, CHU14, CIR60, and CIR61) with other circumarctic populations, Aleuts lacked haplogroup A mtDNAs having the 16265G mutation that are specific to Eskimo populations. R-matrix and median network analyses indicated that Aleuts were closest genetically to Chukotkan (Chukchi and Siberian Eskimos) rather than to Native American or Kamchatkan populations (Koryaks and Itel’men). Dating of the Beringian branch of haplogroup A (16192T) suggested that populations ancestral to the Aleuts, Eskimos, and Athapaskan Indians emerged approximately 13,120 years ago, while Aleut-specific A and D sublineages were dated at 6539 ± 3511 and 6035 ± 2885 years, respectively. Our findings support the archaeologically based hypothesis that ancestral Aleuts crossed the Bering Land Bridge or Beringian platform and entered the Aleutian Islands from the east, rather than island hopping from Kamchatka into the western Aleutians. Furthermore, the Aleut migration most likely represents a separate event from those responsible for peopling the remainder of the Americas, meaning that the New World was colonized through multiple migrations.

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Analysis of Mitochondrial DNA Diversity in the Aleuts of the Commander Islands and Its Implications for the Genetic History of Beringia

The Aleuts are aboriginal inhabitants of the Aleutian archipelago, including Bering and Copper (Medny) Islands of the Commanders, and seem to be the survivors of the inhabitants of the southern belt of the Bering Land Bridge that connected Chukotka/Kamchatka and Alaska during the end of the Ice Age. Thirty mtDNA samples collected in the Commanders, as well as seven mtDNA samples from Sireniki Eskimos in Chukotka who belong to the Beringian-specific subhaplogroup D2, were studied through complete sequencing. This analysis has provided evidence that all 37 of these mtDNAs are closely related, since they share the founding haplotype for subhaplogroup D2. We also demonstrated that, unlike the Eskimos and Na-Dene, the Aleuts of the Commanders were founded by a single lineage of haplogroup D2, which had acquired the novel transversion mutation 8910A. The phylogeny of haplogroup D complete sequences showed that (1) the D2 root sequence type originated among the latest inhabitants of Beringia and (2) the Aleut 8910A sublineage of D2 is a part of larger radiation of rooted D2, which gave rise to D2a (Na-Dene), D2b (Aleut), and D2c (Eskimo) sublineages. The geographic specificity and remarkable intrinsic diversity of D2 lineages support the refugial hypothesis, which assumes that the founding population of Eskimo-Aleut originated in Beringan/southwestern Alaskan refugia during the early postglacial period, rather than having reached the shores of Alaska as the result of recent wave of migration from interior Siberia.

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Genetic Structure of the Aleuts and Circumpolar Populations Based on Mitochondrial DNA Sequences: A Synthesis

The mtDNA variation of 198 Aleuts, as well as North American and Asian populations drawn from the literature, were analyzed to reconstruct the Aleuts' genetic prehistory and to investigate their role in the peopling of the Circumarctic region. From median-joining network analysis, three star-like clusters were identified in the Aleuts within the following subhaplogroups: A3, A7 (an Aleut-specific subclade of A3), and D2. Mismatch analyses, neutrality test scores, and coalescent time estimates for these three components provided evidence of two expansion events, one occurring at approximately 19,900 B.P. and the other at 5,400 B.P. Based on these findings and evidence from the archaeological data, four general models for the genetic prehistory of the Aleutian Island chain are proposed: 1) biological continuity involving a kin-structured peopling of the archipelago; 2) intrusion and expansion of a non-native biface-producing population dominated by subhaplogroup D2; 3) amalgamation of Arctic Small Tool tradition peoples characterized by D2 with an older Anangula substratum; and 4) biological continuity with significant gene flow from neighboring populations of the Alaskan mainland and Kodiak Island. The Aleut mtDNAs are consistent with the Circumarctic pattern by the fixation of A3 and D2, and the exhibition of depressed diversity levels relative to Amerind and Siberian groups. The results of this study indicate a broad postglacial reexpansion of Na-Dene and Esko-Aleuts from reduced populations within northern North America, with D2 representing a later infusion of Siberian mtDNAs into the Beringian gene pool.

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