Monday, November 11, 2013

Human Adaptation Potluck: Hunter-Gatherer Specific Adaptation

Lachance et al. (2012) sequenced whole genomes of one individual each from three African hunter-gatherer groups: Cameroonian Pygmies, the Hadza, and the Sandawe. Many of the findings of this study were discussed by Dr. Sarah Tishkoff (Penn) in a very interesting lecture given at EEB last week, including the discovery of >3 million novel SNPs (unknown on dbSNP & 1000 Genomes) and evidence for archaic admixture in all three populations.

In terms of adaptation, all three populations showed evidence for local environment-specific selection. Regions of divergence in all three groups were enriched for genes involved in immune system and sensory (smell and taste) function. Particularly interesting, regions showing signatures of selection in the pygmies encompassed genes active in pituitary and reproductive function. This finding suggests that pituitary activity in development may be related to the short-stature pygmy phenotype.

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