Postdoctoral Fellow, UC Berkeley
Deriving and applying new models to study human migrations during the past 10,000 years
Human evolution is defined by migration: from massive movements within and out of Africa 100,000 years ago to colonization of every corner of the globe. My research leverages the clues left in our genomes, our DNA, to reconstruct these migrations. In particular, I use mathematical models to learn about social and cultural processes during human migrations. For example, I demonstrate that males and females often have different migration rates, and find cultural preferences in marriage practices.
My methods provide insight into human cultural practices and population interactions during the past thousands of years. Additionally, these complex patterns of who mates with whom have led to differential disease risk between populations. Accurately reconstructing past population histories, incorporating my observed complexity, is critical to identifying and mapping disease-associated genetic markers.
Abstract: As the last habitable continent colonized by humans, the site of multiple domestication hotspots, and the location of the largest Pleistocene megafaunal extinction, South America is central to human prehistory1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. Yet remarkably little is known about human population dynamics during colonization, subsequent expansions, and domestication2, 3, 4, 5. Here we reconstruct the spatiotemporal patterns of human population growth in South America using a newly aggregated database of 1,147 archaeological sites and 5,464 calibrated radiocarbon dates spanning fourteen thousand to two thousand years ago (ka). We demonstrate that, rather than a steady exponential expansion, the demographic history of South Americans is characterized by two distinct phases. First, humans spread rapidly throughout the continent, but remained at low population sizes for 8,000 years, including a 4,000-year period of ‘boom-and-bust’ oscillations with no net growth. Supplementation of hunting with domesticated crops and animals4, 8 had a minimal impact on population carrying capacity. Only with widespread sedentism, beginning ~5 ka4, 8, did a second demographic phase begin, with evidence for exponential population growth in cultural hotspots, characteristic of the Neolithic transition worldwide9. The unique extent of humanity’s ability to modify its environment to markedly increase carrying capacity in South America is therefore an unexpectedly recent phenomenon.
Pub.: 06 Apr '16, Pinned: 16 Aug '17
Abstract: Common diseases often show sex differences in prevalence, onset, symptomology, treatment, or prognosis. Although studies have been performed to evaluate sex differences at specific SNP associations, this work aims to comprehensively survey a number of complex heritable diseases and anthropometric traits. Potential genetically-encoded sex differences we investigated include differential genetic liability thresholds or distributions, gene-sex interaction at autosomal loci, major contribution of the X-chromosome, or gene-environment interactions reflected in genes responsive to androgens or estrogens. Finally, we tested the overlap between sex-differential association with anthropometric traits and disease risk. We utilized complementary approaches of assessing GWAS association enrichment and SNP-based heritability estimation to explore explicit sex differences as well as enrichment in sex-implicated functional categories. We do not find consistent increased genetic load in the lower-prevalence sex or a disproportionate role for the X-chromosome in disease risk, despite sex-heterogeneity on the X for several traits. We find that all anthropometric traits show less than complete correlation between the genetic contribution to males and females and find a convincing example of autosome-wide genome-sex interaction in multiple sclerosis (P = 1×10(-9)). We also find some evidence for hormone-responsive gene enrichment and striking evidence of the contribution of sex-differential anthropometric associations to common disease risk, implying that general mechanisms of sexual dimorphism determining secondary sex characteristics have shared effects on disease risk.
Pub.: 16 Dec '16, Pinned: 16 Aug '17
Abstract: Dramatic events in human prehistory, such as the spread of agriculture to Europe from Anatolia and the late Neolithic/Bronze Age migration from the Pontic-Caspian Steppe, can be investigated using patterns of genetic variation among the people who lived in those times. In particular, studies of differing female and male demographic histories on the basis of ancient genomes can provide information about complexities of social structures and cultural interactions in prehistoric populations. We use a mechanistic admixture model to compare the sex-specifically-inherited X chromosome with the autosomes in 20 early Neolithic and 16 late Neolithic/Bronze Age human remains. Contrary to previous hypotheses suggested by the patrilocality of many agricultural populations, we find no evidence of sex-biased admixture during the migration that spread farming across Europe during the early Neolithic. For later migrations from the Pontic Steppe during the late Neolithic/Bronze Age, however, we estimate a dramatic male bias, with approximately five to 14 migrating males for every migrating female. We find evidence of ongoing, primarily male, migration from the steppe to central Europe over a period of multiple generations, with a level of sex bias that excludes a pulse migration during a single generation. The contrasting patterns of sex-specific migration during these two migrations suggest a view of differing cultural histories in which the Neolithic transition was driven by mass migration of both males and females in roughly equal numbers, perhaps whole families, whereas the later Bronze Age migration and cultural shift were instead driven by male migration, potentially connected to new technology and conquest.
Pub.: 23 Feb '17, Pinned: 16 Aug '17
Abstract: Sex-biased demography, in which parameters governing migration and population size differ between females and males, has been studied through comparisons of X chromosomes, which are inherited sex-specifically, and autosomes, which are not. A common form of sex bias in humans is sex-biased admixture, in which at least one of the source populations differs in its proportions of females and males contributing to an admixed population. Studies of sex-biased admixture often examine the mean ancestry for markers on the X chromosome in relation to the autosomes. A simple framework noting that in a population with equally many females and males, two-thirds of X chromosomes appear in females, suggests that the mean X-chromosomal admixture fraction is a linear combination of female and male admixture parameters, with coefficients 2/3 and 1/3, respectively. Extending a mechanistic admixture model to accommodate the X chromosome, we demonstrate that this prediction is not generally true in admixture models, although it holds in the limit for an admixture process occurring as a single event. For a model with constant ongoing admixture, we determine the mean X-chromosomal admixture, comparing admixture on female and male X chromosomes to corresponding autosomal values. Surprisingly, in reanalyzing African-American genetic data to estimate sex-specific contributions from African and European sources, we find that the range of contributions compatible with the excess African ancestry on the X chromosome compared to autosomes has a wide spread, permitting scenarios either without male-biased contributions from Europe or without female-biased contributions from Africa.
Pub.: 26 Jul '15, Pinned: 16 Aug '17
Abstract: High-coverage whole-genome sequence studies have so far focused on a limited number1 of geographically restricted populations2, 3, 4, 5, or been targeted at specific diseases, such as cancer6. Nevertheless, the availability of high-resolution genomic data has led to the development of new methodologies for inferring population history7, 8, 9 and refuelled the debate on the mutation rate in humans10. Here we present the Estonian Biocentre Human Genome Diversity Panel (EGDP), a dataset of 483 high-coverage human genomes from 148 populations worldwide, including 379 new genomes from 125 populations, which we group into diversity and selection sets. We analyse this dataset to refine estimates of continent-wide patterns of heterozygosity, long- and short-distance gene flow, archaic admixture, and changes in effective population size through time as well as for signals of positive or balancing selection. We find a genetic signature in present-day Papuans that suggests that at least 2% of their genome originates from an early and largely extinct expansion of anatomically modern humans (AMHs) out of Africa. Together with evidence from the western Asian fossil record11, and admixture between AMHs and Neanderthals predating the main Eurasian expansion12, our results contribute to the mounting evidence for the presence of AMHs out of Africa earlier than 75,000 years ago.
Pub.: 21 Sep '16, Pinned: 16 Aug '17
Abstract: Populations are often divided categorically into distinct racial/ethnic groups based on social rather than biological constructs. Genetic ancestry has been suggested as an alternative to this categorization. Herein, we typed over 450,000 CpG sites in whole blood of 573 individuals of diverse Hispanic origin who also had high-density genotype data. We found that both self-identified ethnicity and genetically determined ancestry were each significantly associated with methylation levels at 916 and 194 CpGs, respectively, and that shared genomic ancestry accounted for a median of 75.7% (IQR 45.8% to 92%) of the variance in methylation associated with ethnicity. There was a significant enrichment (p=4.2×10(-64)) of ethnicity-associated sites amongst loci previously associated environmental exposures, particularly maternal smoking during pregnancy. We conclude that differential methylation between ethnic groups is partially explained by the shared genetic ancestry but that environmental factors not captured by ancestry significantly contribute to variation in methylation.
Pub.: 04 Jan '17, Pinned: 16 Aug '17
Abstract: What are the effects that genetics has had on Anthropological research and how can we think anthropologically about Genetics? Just as genetic data have encouraged new hypotheses about human phenotypic variation, evolutionary history, population interaction, and environmental effects, so too has Anthropology offered to genetic studies a new interpretive locus in its history and perspective. This introduction examines how the fields of Anthropology and Genetics have arrived at a crucial moment at which their interaction requires careful examination and critical reflection. The papers discussed here exemplify how we may engage in such a trans‐disciplinary conversation. They speak to the future of thoughtful interaction between genetic and anthropological literature and seek a new integration that embodies the holism of the human biological sciences.
Pub.: 17 Jun '16, Pinned: 16 Aug '17
Abstract: Despite its population, geographic size, and emerging economic importance, disproportionately little genome-scale research exists into genetic factors that predispose Brazilians to disease, or the population genetics of risk. After identification of suitable proxy populations and careful analysis of tri-continental admixture in 1,538 North-Eastern Brazilians to estimate individual ancestry and ancestral allele frequencies, we computed 400,000 genome-wide locus-specific branch length (LSBL) Fst statistics of Brazilian Amerindian ancestry compared to European and African; and a similar set of differentiation statistics for their Amerindian component compared to the closest Asian 1000 Genomes population (surprisingly, Bengalis in Bangladesh). After ranking SNPs by these statistics, we identified the top 10 highly differentiated SNPs in 5 genome regions in the LSBL tests of Brazilian Amerindian ancestry compared to European and African; and the top 10 SNPs in 8 regions comparing their Amerindian component to the closest Asian 1000 Genomes population. We found SNPs within or proximal to the genes CIITA (rs6498115), SMC6 (rs1834619), and KLHL29 (rs2288697) were most differentiated in the Amerindian-specific branch, while SNPs in the genes ADAMTS9 (rs7631391), DOCK2 (rs77594147), SLC28A1 (rs28649017), ARHGAP5 (rs7151991), and CIITA (rs45601437) were most highly differentiated in the Asian comparison. These genes are known to influence immune function, metabolic and anthropometry traits, and embryonic development. These analyses have identified candidate genes for selection within Amerindian ancestry, and by comparison of the two analyses, those for which the differentiation may have arisen during the migration from Asia to the Americas.
Pub.: 20 Jan '17, Pinned: 16 Aug '17
Abstract: The population genetic history of a 10.1-kbp noncoding region of the human X chromosome was studied using the males of the HGDP-CEPH Human Genome Diversity Panel (672 individuals from 52 populations). The geographic distribution of patterns of variation was roughly consistent with previous studies, with the major exception that 1 highly divergent haplotype (haplotype X, hX) was observed at low frequency in widely scattered non-African populations and not at all observed in sub-Saharan African populations. Microsatellite (short tandem repeat) variation within the sequenced region was low among copies of hX, even though the estimated time of ancestry of hX and other sequences was 1.44 Myr. The estimated age of the common ancestor of all hX copies was 5,230 years (95% consistency index: 2,000-75,480 years). To further address the presence of hX in Africa, additional samples from Chad and Tanzania were screened. Five additional copies of hX were observed, consistent with a history in which hX was present in Africa prior to the migration of modern humans out of Africa and with eastern Africa being the source of non-African modern human populations. Taken together, these features of hX-that it is much older than other haplotypes and uncommon and patchily distributed throughout Africa, Europe, and Asia-present a cautionary tale for interpretations of human history.
Pub.: 19 Dec '06, Pinned: 16 Aug '17