Recent population genomic insights into the genetic basis of arsenic tolerance in humans: the difficulties of identifying positively selected loci in strongly bottlenecked populations

Mario Apata, Susanne P. Pfeifer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Abstract

Recent advances in genomics have enabled researchers to shed light on the evolutionary processes driving human adaptation, by revealing the genetic architectures underlying traits ranging from lactase persistence, to skin pigmentation, to hypoxic response, to arsenic tolerance. Complicating the identification of targets of positive selection in modern human populations is their complex demographic history, characterized by population bottlenecks and expansions, population structure, migration, and admixture. In particular, founder effects and recent strong population size reductions, such as those experienced by the indigenous peoples of the Americas, have severe impacts on genetic variation that can lead to the accumulation of large allele frequency differences between populations due to genetic drift rather than natural selection. While distinguishing the effects of demographic history from selection remains challenging, neglecting neutral processes can lead to the incorrect identification of candidate loci. We here review the recent population genomic insights into the genetic basis of arsenic tolerance in Andean populations, and utilize this example to highlight both the difficulties pertaining to the identification of local adaptations in strongly bottlenecked populations, as well as the importance of controlling for demographic history in selection scans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalHeredity
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2019

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Metagenomics
Arsenic
Population
Demography
Founder Effect
Skin Pigmentation
Lactase
Genetic Drift
Genetic Selection
Population Density
Genomics
Gene Frequency
Research Personnel

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)

Cite this

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abstract = "Recent advances in genomics have enabled researchers to shed light on the evolutionary processes driving human adaptation, by revealing the genetic architectures underlying traits ranging from lactase persistence, to skin pigmentation, to hypoxic response, to arsenic tolerance. Complicating the identification of targets of positive selection in modern human populations is their complex demographic history, characterized by population bottlenecks and expansions, population structure, migration, and admixture. In particular, founder effects and recent strong population size reductions, such as those experienced by the indigenous peoples of the Americas, have severe impacts on genetic variation that can lead to the accumulation of large allele frequency differences between populations due to genetic drift rather than natural selection. While distinguishing the effects of demographic history from selection remains challenging, neglecting neutral processes can lead to the incorrect identification of candidate loci. We here review the recent population genomic insights into the genetic basis of arsenic tolerance in Andean populations, and utilize this example to highlight both the difficulties pertaining to the identification of local adaptations in strongly bottlenecked populations, as well as the importance of controlling for demographic history in selection scans.",
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