Capelli group publish paper in Current Biology

Credits: Alessandro Corlianò

Busby GBJ1,2, Hellenthal G3, Montinaro F1, Tofanelli S4, Bulayeva K5, Rudan I6, Zemunik T7, Hayward C8, Toncheva D9, Karachanak-Yankova S9, Nesheva D9, Anagnostou P10,11, Cali F12, Brisighelli F13, Romano V14, LeFranc G15, Buresi C15, Chibani JB16, Haj-Khelil A16, Denden S16, Ploski R17, Krajewski P18, Hervig T19, Moen T20, Herrera RJ21, Wilson JF6, Myers S2,22, and Capelli C1 (2015)

The role of recent admixture in forming the contemporary West Eurasian genomic landscape

Over the past few years, studies of DNA isolated from human fossils and archaeological remains have generated considerable novel insight into the history of our species. Several landmark papers have described the genomes of ancient human ancestors and have demonstrated that contemporary humans harbour genetic material from ancient close relatives, the Neanderthals and Denisovans, and that ancient human individuals are often genetically distinct from nearby extant populations whilst also showing affinities with populations from further afield. Across West Eurasia, there is growing genetic evidence of large-scale, dynamic population movements over the period between 10,000 to 2,000 years ago, such that the ancestry across present-day populations is likely to be a mixture of several ancient groups. Whilst these efforts are bringing the details of West Eurasian pre-history into increasing focus, studies aimed at understanding the processes behind the generation of the current West Eurasian genetic landscape have been limited by the number of populations sampled, or have been either too regional or global in their outlook. Here, using recently described haplotype-based techniques, we present the results of a systematic survey of recent admixture history across Western Eurasia and show that admixture is a universal property across almost all groups. Admixture in all regions except North Western Europe involved the influx of genetic material from outside of West Eurasia, which we date to specific time periods. Within Northern, Western, and Central Europe admixture tended to occur between local groups during the period 300 to 1200CE. Comparisons of the genetic profiles of West Eurasians before and after admixture show that population movements within the last 1500 years are likely to have maintained differentiation amongst groups. Our analysis provides a timeline of the gene flow events that have generated the contemporary genetic landscape of West Eurasia.

Listen to Kat Arney of The Naked Scientist interviewing Cristian on genes and the history of Europe.

Animation showing gene-flow events involving sources outside Western Eurasia. Circles are located in relation to the inferred location of Western Eurasian clusters. Colours and size of the circles refer to the involved donor populations and their contributions. Each cartoon reports contributions up to the indicated time. (Credits: Montinaro F/Busby GBJ/Capelli C)

News articles on this paper:
University of Oxford
Le Scienze (Italian)

1 Department of Zoology, University of Oxford
2 Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics, University of Oxford
3 UCL Genetics Institute
4 Dipartimento di Biologia, Università di Pisa
5 N.I.Vavilov Institute of General Genetics
6 Centre for Population Health Sciences, The University of Edinburgh Medical School
7 Department of Medical Biology, School of Medicine Split
8 MRC Human Genetics Unit, Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine (IGMM), University of
9 Department of Medical Genetics, National Human Genome Center, Medical University Sofia
10 Department of Environmental Biology, Università La Sapienza
11 Istituto Italiano di Antropologia
12 Laboratorio di Genetica Molecolare, IRCCS Associazione Oasi Maria SS
13 Forensic Genetics Laboratory, Institute of Legal Medicine, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore
14 Dipartimento di Fisica e Chimica, Università di Palermo
15 Laboratoire d’Immunogénétique Moléculaire, Institut de Génétique Humaine, Université Montpellier
16 Laboratory of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Faculty of Pharmacy, Monastir
17 Department of Medical Genetics, Warsaw Medical Univesity
18 Department of Forensic Medicine, Warsaw Medical University
19 Department of Clinical Science, University of Bergen
20 NTNU, Trondheim
21 Department of Human and Molecular Genetics, Florida International University
22 Department of Statistics, University of Oxford