Letter abstract


Nature Genetics 41, 66 - 70 (2008)
Published online: 21 December 2008 | doi:10.1038/ng.303

Accelerated genetic drift on chromosome X during the human dispersal out of Africa

Alon Keinan1,2, James C Mullikin3, Nick Patterson2 & David Reich1,2

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Comparisons of chromosome X and the autosomes can illuminate differences in the histories of males and females as well as shed light on the forces of natural selection. We compared the patterns of variation in these parts of the genome using two datasets that we assembled for this study that are both genomic in scale. Three independent analyses show that around the time of the dispersal of modern humans out of Africa, chromosome X experienced much more genetic drift than is expected from the pattern on the autosomes. This is not predicted by known episodes of demographic history, and we found no similar patterns associated with the dispersals into East Asia and Europe. We conclude that a sex-biased process that reduced the female effective population size, or an episode of natural selection unusually affecting chromosome X, was associated with the founding of non-African populations.

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  1. Department of Genetics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.
  2. Broad Institute of Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02142, USA.
  3. Genome Technology Branch, National Human Genome Research Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.

Correspondence to: Alon Keinan1,2 e-mail: akeinan@genetics.med.harvard.edu

Correspondence to: David Reich1,2 e-mail: reich@genetics.med.harvard.edu



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