Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2010 May 5;107 Suppl 2:8924-30. Epub 2010 May 5.
Department of Human Genetics, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL 60637, USA.
Human populations use a variety of subsistence strategies to exploit an exceptionally broad range of ecoregions and dietary components. These aspects of human environments have changed dramatically during human evolution, giving rise to new selective pressures. To understand the genetic basis of human adaptations, we combine population genetics data with ecological information to detect variants that increased in frequency in response to new selective pressures. Our approach detects SNPs that show concordant differences in allele frequencies across populations with respect to specific aspects of the environment. Genic and especially nonsynonymous SNPs are overrepresented among those most strongly correlated with environmental variables. This provides genome-wide evidence for selection due to changes in ecoregion, diet, and subsistence. We find particularly strong signals associated with polar ecoregions, with foraging, and with a diet rich in roots and tubers. Interestingly, several of the strongest signals overlap with those implicated in energy metabolism phenotypes from genome-wide association studies, including SNPs influencing glucose levels and susceptibility to type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, several pathways, including those of starch and sucrose metabolism, are enriched for strong signals of adaptations to a diet rich in roots and tubers, whereas signals associated with polar ecoregions are overrepresented in genes associated with energy metabolism pathways.