Genetic Chaos

Friday, December 15, 2006

Genetic stratification of pathogen-response-related and other variants within a homogeneous Caucasian Irish population

Selection pressures from pathogens impact on the worldwide geographic distribution of polymorphisms in certain pathogen-response-associated genes. Such gene-specific effects could lead to confounding by geographic disease associations. We wished to determine if such constraints impinge on the genetic structure of a population of Irish patients and whether variants associated with responses to pathogens showed greater stratification. The counties of origin of each subject's grandparents were used as the geographic variable. F(st), proportional to the extent of population structure, was low (mean F(st)=0.004 across 25 SNPs, range 0.001-0.008) and it was not significantly higher for pathogen response SNPs (F(st)=0.004) than for other SNPs (F(st)=0.003, P=0.21). Correspondence analysis revealed weak trends primarily in approximately northeast to southwest and secondarily in northwest to southeast directions. One-dimensional spatial autocorrelation analysis revealed a weak (Moran's I autocorrelation of -0.10) tendency for SNP frequencies to diverge with greater distance. Two-dimensional autocorrelation indicated a northeast to southwest gradient that was similar for both the pathogen response and other SNPs. The southeastern county, Wexford, showed a distinctive pattern, perhaps consistent with Anglo-Norman settlements. In conclusion, these results indicate that pathogen response SNPs do not exhibit significantly more population structure than other SNPs within this Caucasian population. This suggests that the specific population structure of particular genes may not typically be a cause of strong confounding in genetic studies where population structure is controlled.

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Sub-populations within the major European and African derived haplogroups R1b3 and E3a are differentiated by previously phylogenetically undefined Y-SNPs

Single nucleotide polymorphisms on the Y chromosome (Y-SNPs) have been widely used in the study of human migration patterns and evolution. Potential forensic applications of Y-SNPs include their use in predicting the ethnogeographic origin of the donor of a crime scene sample, or exclusion of suspects of sexual assaults (the evidence of which often comprises male/female mixtures and may involve multiple perpetrators), paternity testing, and identification of non- and half-siblings. In this study, we used a population of 118 African- and 125 European-Americans to evaluate 12 previously phylogenetically undefined Y-SNPs for their ability to further differentiate individuals who belong to the major African (E3a)- and European (R1b3, I)-derived haplogroups. Ten of these markers define seven new sub-clades (equivalent to E3a7a, E3a8, E3a8a, E3a8a1, R1b3h, R1b3i, and R1b3i1 using the Y Chromosome Consortium nomenclature) within haplogroups E and R. Interestingly, during the course of this study we evaluated M222, a sub-R1b3 marker rarely used, and found that this sub-haplogroup in effect defines the Y-STR Irish Modal Haplotype (IMH). The new bi-allelic markers described here are expected to find application in human evolutionary studies and forensic genetics.

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The mtDNA Legacy of the Levantine Early Upper Palaeolithic in Africa

Sequencing of 81 entire human mitochondrial DNAs (mtDNAs) belonging to haplogroups M1 and U6 reveals that these predominantly North African clades arose in southwestern Asia and moved together to Africa about 40,000 to 45,000 years ago. Their arrival temporally overlaps with the event(s) that led to the peopling of Europe by modern humans and was most likely the result of the same change in climate conditions that allowed humans to enter the Levant, opening the way to the colonization of both Europe and North Africa. Thus, the early Upper Palaeolithic population(s) carrying M1 and U6 did not return to Africa along the southern coastal route of the “out of Africa” exit, but from the Mediterranean area; and the North African Dabban and European Aurignacian industries derived from a common Levantine source.

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