Adaptations to new environments in humans: the role of subtle allele frequency shifts.

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 2010 Aug;365(1552):2459-68

Department of Human Genetics, University of Chicago, 920 E. 58th Street, Chicago, IL 60637, USA.

Humans show tremendous phenotypic diversity across geographically distributed populations, and much of this diversity undoubtedly results from genetic adaptations to different environmental pressures. The availability of genome-wide genetic variation data from densely sampled populations offers unprecedented opportunities for identifying the loci responsible for these adaptations and for elucidating the genetic architecture of human adaptive traits. Several approaches have been used to detect signals of selection in human populations, and these approaches differ in the assumptions they make about the underlying mode of selection. We contrast the results of approaches based on haplotype structure and differentiation of allele frequencies to those from a method for identifying single nucleotide polymorphisms strongly correlated with environmental variables. Although the first group of approaches tends to detect new beneficial alleles that were driven to high frequencies by selection, the environmental correlation approach has power to identify alleles that experienced small shifts in frequency owing to selection. We suggest that the first group of approaches tends to identify only variants with relatively strong phenotypic effects, whereas the environmental correlation methods can detect variants that make smaller contributions to an adaptive trait.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2010.0032DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2935101PMC
August 2010
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