Population differentiation as an indicator of recent positive selection in humans: An empirical evaluation

Yali Xue, Xuelong Zhang, Ni Huang, Allan Daly, Christopher J. Gillson, Daniel G. MacArthur, Bryndis Yngvadottir, Alexandra C. Nica, Cara Woodwark, Yuan Chen, Donald F. Conrad, Qasim Ayub, S. Qasim Mehdi, Pu Li, Chris Tyler-Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


We have evaluated the extent to which SNPs identified by genomewide surveys as showing unusually high levels of population differentiation in humans have experienced recent positive selection, starting from a set of 32 nonsynonymous SNPs in 27 genes highlighted by the HapMap1 project. These SNPs were genotyped again in the HapMap samples and in the Human Genome Diversity Project-Centre d'Etude du Polymorphisme Humain (HGDP-CEPH) panel of 52 populations representing worldwide diversity; extended haplotype homozygosity was investigated around all of them, and full resequence data were examined for 9 genes (5 from public sources and 4 from new data sets). For 7 of the genes, genotyping errors were responsible for an artifactual signal of high population differentiation and for 2, the population differentiation did not exceed our significance threshold. For the 18 genes with confirmed high population differentiation, 3 showed evidence of positive selection as measured by unusually extended haplotypes within a population, and 7 more did in between-population analyses. The 9 genes with resequence data included 7 with high population differentiation, and 5 showed evidence of positive selection on the haplotype carrying the nonsynonymous SNP from skewed allele frequency spectra; in addition, 2 showed evidence of positive selection on unrelated haplotypes. Thus, in humans, high population differentiation is (apart from technical artifacts) an effective way of enriching for recently selected genes, but is not an infallible pointer to recent positive selection supported by other lines of evidence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1065-1077
Number of pages13
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 2009
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics


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