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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